Unigo.com Expert Network: Making College Visits Worth Your Time (And Money)

The college search is back for round two. Months after students submitted their applications, they've all heard the verdicts and now it's time for them to pick the right school. With acceptance letters in hand, a college visit can make or break a student's decision to attend, so The Unigo Expert Network has put together a list of some non-traditional but vital things to look out for on your next college visit.

This week's question asks:

"With several campus visits scheduled, I want to make the most of them - what are some uncommon, but important, things to do, look for, and ask while I'm there?"

To have your questions answered visit www.unigo.com/expertnetwork

Nancy McDuff
"Visit a 'freebie' campus close to home for your first visit"
Some students make their first campus visit to their No. 1 school.  But if you visit a local school first and get comfortable with the campus visit, you will get more out of the visit to that school that really interests you. Think of it as a dress rehearsal. On a trial visit, listen to the questions and answers to help you determine what you really need to know about the school.  Did they cover the things that matter to you and, if not, make sure that you ask about them on your important visits.  Get rid of the jitters that may accompany you on visits to 'important' school by making sure that it is not your first campus visit and build a baseline for comparison.

- Nancy McDuff - Associate VP of Admissions, University of Georgia

Carol Morris
"Let them know you're there!"
A number of schools have begun tracking your interest level, which can play a part in the admission decision later on. Don't just visit the campus on your own; check in with the admissions office and let them know you're there! While it's helpful to attend the information session and tour, even if you simply hang out with current students who are friends, you don't want them to mistakenly assume you never visited campus (and therefore might be making a somewhat less-informed decision to apply, with a less-intense interest in the school, and subsequently less-strong odds that you will eventually attend.) Get credit for showing up!

- Carol Morris - Regional Director of Admissions, Southern Methodist University

Scott White
"Look out in the open"
When visiting a college and trying to get a feel for the place, look at places where the students express themselves: read what is on student doors; read the graffiti in the bathroom, read the student newspaper, look at ratemyprofessors.com. Go to the dining room. Who's sitting with whom? Do minority students, jocks, etc. co-mingle with the rest of the students or sit separately? How many of the guys are wearing baseball caps, and how many are wearing them backwards. Do the students look like they just rolled out of bed or do they look like they are ready for the cotillion? How do the students carry themselves: with confidence or with cowardice? Is the campus kept up? Are their weeds growing everywhere, water spots on ceilings, flaking paint? Do the dorms stink of beer or bong water? Read the posters: are there causes you believe in or activities you are interested in? Find random students and ask: would they go to this school if they could start over? What do they like best or hate the most about the school?

- Scott White - Director of Guidance, Monclair High School

Sandra Farris
"Overnights, classes a must for comprehensive campus visits"
As the college search and application process becomes increasingly more discriminating and expensive, it is critical for a student to take in every facet of campus life during a college visit. No longer will the standard two-hour walking tour and information session give prospective students the real feel for the heartbeat of the campus community. A day of shadowing a student in classes and an overnight stay in a dormitory is a must - preferably on a Thursday when weekend social activities begin in earnest. Adding an excursion to a nearby city would also inform. Whirlwind? Yes! Necessary? Absolutely!

- Sandra Farris - College Counselor, Indian Hill High School

Mary Beth Fry
"Look for what's important to YOU"
Don't be distracted by a college's glitzy selling points (the perennial, shiny-new fitness center comes to mind). Instead, set your own priorities before you visit each campus--seeing the performing arts center and science labs at every school, for example--and stick to them. Always plan to see the big five: where you'll sleep, eat, work (class buildings), play (athletic fields, gym and student center), and study (library or quiet study areas), plus anything else that's important to you. If a tour guide overlooks any of these, politely request that he or she show you what you've missed. Don't leave campus until you've seen what you need to see!

- Mary Beth Fry - Director of College Counseling, Savannah Country Day School

Hear from 30 more experts - including the Dean of Admissions from University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan, and more at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork

Have you visited a college that sealed the deal for you? Did you want to visit a school but couldn't because it was too expensive? Let us know below, for better or worse!