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5 things you must do on a college visit

Middle Tennessee State Universityby  Bobbie Jo Beach, Admissions Counselor at Middle Tennessee State University You’ve thumbed through hundreds of pages of university guidebooks. You’ve listened to the stories of glory days in college as told by family members, teachers, coaches or counselors. You may have even done some research on your own. But how do you really get to know if that college or university is right for you?

Books, college websites and videos are helpful, but nothing will provide you with a more realistic experience than visiting the campus for yourself. It’s time to get up close and personal with your future. But before you head out to visit the chosen few, make plans to do the following in order to get the most out of your visit:

1. Take the official tour offered by the school

Yes, you could and should explore alone, but the school will offer a detailed tour explaining the history and tradition of the institution.  Taking the tour allows you the opportunity to  become familiar with the campus and the community.  The best way to know if this is the right school for you is to explore the campus with someone else who has the knowledge to inform you of the different facts that make the institution special.

2. Talk to a student

If you really want to know the truth about an institution, ask a student.  They are going to be completely honest about their experiences with the school.  However, you should speak to more than one.  If you talk to a larger number of people, you will have a more accurate account of the school and the type of institution it is.

3. Eat in the cafeteria

If you live on campus, the majority of your meals are going to be from the cafeteria.  You should eat one meal while you are visiting and ask about the options that will be offered to you for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It may seem like a small factor, but if you are going to be eating there every day you want to make sure you are satisfied with the food.

4. Ask questions

While you are on campus, you should ask questions throughout the entire visit.  Each person you come in contact with has information and knowledge about the institution. Asking questions at each school will make it easier for you to make the decision on which college or university you want to attend.  There are several questions that you should have answered by the time you leave. Here is a list of sample questions to help you get started:

  • How do I apply and what are the deadlines?
  • Do freshmen have to live on campus? What are my options for housing?
  • Are freshmen allowed to have cars on campus?
  • What is the tuition rate and fees for the university? (Keep in mind that you will have to pay for more than just tuition: books, housing, meal plans, parking pass, etc. will all have to be calculated in as well.)
  • What type of student organizations does the school offer?

5. Visit your department of interest

This should be a top priority when visiting schools you are interested in.  You will spend the majority of the next four years building relationships with the faculty, staff, and students in that department so you should become familiar with the group.  If possible, make an appointment to speak with an advisor or professor so you can get a better understanding of what is expected of you and whether or not you would enjoy that major. This is also a good opportunity to decide if that department exceeds your expectations and meets your needs.