Checklist: Evaluate Your College Visits

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. The same is true for evaluating a college as it is shown on a brochure or video. If possible, visit the campus so that you can understand firsthand whether this college is right for you. The more you do when on campus, the better. Allow time to visit and talk to students and residence advisors, walk around the campus, and sit in on a few classes. For example, note how many students are in a freshman biology lecture, who actually teaches the class (teaching assistant or professor), what the laboratories are like, and what the class syllabus reveal about requirements.

In addition, if you are a student who needs financial aid, health services, or accommodations for a disability, visit and collect brochures from the various offices. If you need accommodations, schedule a meeting with an advisor to find out what procedures must be followed by a student with special needs. If you have a special interest or potential major, meet with professors, students, or leaders of student organizations for information about that area. If you are concerned about the difficulty of college courses, inquire about labs, workshops and tutoring sessions to assist with assignments and study skills. Visit the library and other special facilities that provide resources, such as a drop-in reading/writing lab or an academic resource center for student athletes. Of course, also visit the cafeteria and other places where students congregate.

It is important to prepare a list of questions in advance for each program or person you will visit. Talk to your parents, other students and advisors for their suggestions. Bring a small notebook to record notes and/or a card case to store business cards of various personnel.

Use good judgment when you visit. It may be useful to stay in a residence hall, read the student newspaper and check out the fitness center or bookstore. However, don’t get too carried away and live what you think is “the cool college life.” One student’s parents dropped him off at his friend’s dorm at Northwestern University. He partied all night, got sick, awoke late and felt hung-over for his interview. This was not an ideal aspect of his college visit.

Another counterproductive strategy is to fit too many stops into one college visiting session. During the summer of her sophomore year, a high-schooler visited a number of campuses in order to compare the atmospheres of different schools and to see which type of place might interest her. She even requested a few interviews just for practice, which is a great idea. However, her family made the mistake of scheduling multiple schools per day. By the time the long drive home began, the entire family was exhausted and irritable; worse yet, upon her return, the student could no longer remember features were associated with which school! The next year, when she visited her “top” choices, she created a file for each school and used a checklist to write notes. Here is an example of a form you can use for your college visits:

Evaluating Your College Visit

Directions: Write notes about the school during your visit. If you want, rate each item from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

School:                                Date:  

___ Location (Miles or Hours from Home, Transportation):   

___ Physical Setting:  

___ Atmosphere:   

___ Dorms/Housing:   

___ Size of School:   

___ Class size for lectures:   

___ Special Programs:   

___ Athletics:   

___ Finances:  

___ Pre-professional Programs:   

___ Other:


Categories: General


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