a crisp, clear fall day on the Urbana-Champaign campus

What to Look for When Visiting Colleges

We hope you’re one of the lucky ones who, when visiting a college, is hit with an immediate reaction deep down in your gut. For most of you, though, the decision won’t be that obvious.

That’s where our College Visit Guide comes in. Filled with questions to ask yourself during each college visit, this guide can help you organize your thoughts and serve as a starting point as you compare and contrast schools. Let’s dig into these questions and why they’re important.


Campus Culture

  • What’s the overall feel, or campus culture, like?
  • What are the students like?
  • What are the faculty and staff like?

When you talk to current students and meet with staff and faculty, pay close attention to the way they describe their college and the characteristics they choose to emphasize. This will give you a good indication of the campus culture. Then, observe that culture in action. How do students, staff, and faculty interact with each other? How do they interact with you and other visiting families?

Although one bad interaction shouldn’t make or break your opinion of a college, you do want to feel comfortable at whatever college you choose. Being closely aligned with its campus culture will play a large part in that.


Academics

  • What majors interest you, and what sets them apart?
  • What’s the typical classroom experience like?

Most visit programs will give you a chance to meet with staff within your academic area of interest. During this meeting, you’ll get a better sense of the major and what sets it apart from similar majors at other schools. You’ll also have a chance to ask any questions you have. If you don’t have a particular major in mind yet, you can instead discuss the college’s various academic offerings with an admissions counselor.

Hopefully, you’ll also be given the opportunity to check out an actual class during your visit. If so, we encourage you to do it! By attending a class, you’ll gain insight into what a typical classroom experience is like at a particular college. Plus, you’ll get to interact with potential professors and classmates.


Lifestyle

  • What’s student life like?
  • What are the residence halls like?
  • What kinds of things are there to do in your free time?
  • What kind of food is there?

You’ll likely be living on whatever campus you choose for four years. That’s going to feel like a lifetime if you aren’t enjoying yourself outside of the classroom, too.

Think of your visit as a safari: This is your chance to observe current students in their everyday environment, participating in their everyday activities. (An added bonus? If you view squirrels as wildlife, you might feel like you’re on an actual safari.) This is also your chance to ask the students you interact with any additional questions you have. Don’t worry, they won’t bite!


Location 

  • How was the trip to and from campus?
  • What’s the overall weather like?
  • What’s the surrounding town or city like?

Who doesn’t want to spend four sunshine-soaked years next to a beach, complete with an ocean view? Alas, that’s only part of the location equation.

Yes, you should pay attention to what the overall weather is like, especially if you know a certain type of weather affects your mental health in a negative way. And you should also pay attention to the college’s surroundings, whether you’re set on that beach, living in a big city, or being part of a smaller community. However, you should also consider your experience traveling to and from campus, because that experience is likely going to be repeated often over weekends and school breaks.


Fit

  • What do you like about this college?
  • What don’t you like about this college?
  • Can you see yourself as part of this college?

Unlike the rest of the examples on this list, fit is an abstract concept and therefore more difficult to pinpoint. Remember the gut instinct we talked about at the beginning of this post? That, my friend, is fit.

You may come away from a college that looked perfect on paper and know it’s a no-go. Alternatively, your parents may have signed you up to visit a college you have zero interest in attending, but the moment you step foot on its quad, you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. 

Chances are, you’ll be somewhere in between. All you can ask yourself is, “Can I see myself as part of this college?” If the answer is “yes” or even “maybe,” that college is worth considering further.

Illinois Admissions

Illinois Admissions

We're here for you as you prepare for college. Whether you're looking for guidance on the college search process or have questions about Illinois, we hope our blogs will help!

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