Do I Really Need to Visit Colleges?
The short answer is, “YES.” Why? Visiting college campuses in person can be one of the single most helpful aspects of your college search. Touring the campus, talking to current students, and meeting faculty can add depth and dimension to online or viewbook descriptions, and you may find that a college looks and feels very different in person than it did on your computer screen or on paper.
How Do I Schedule This? How Do I Get Started?
To schedule a college visit, first check individual Web sites for tour and information session times (and interviews, if the college offers them. For the sake of time, you may consider visiting colleges well before the summer prior to your senior year. Even as freshmen and sophomores in the Upper School, it is fun and interesting to visit different kinds of campuses when you happen to be in a new area.
Students are expected to complete the majority of their college visits prior to returning to school the fall of their senior year. Some families become frustrated that their first campus visits may be during times when current students are on vacation, but the demands of the senior fall do not allow much time to travel to colleges. One thing to keep in mind is that many schools have Saturday morning visits during the fall semester. If you can arrange visits on Saturdays during September and October, you can maximize visit times even more effectively.
- Call or check online for tour times and information sessions and reserve a spot if necessary.
- Many colleges have a formal information session at one or two specific times of the day. We recommend that you do this as well as the campus tour.
- Call ahead to see if the college offers on-campus interviews and try to arrange one. We recommend interviewing during the summer (if possible) since it is often difficult to return to campuses in the fall.
- When possible, try to attend classes and to spend some time walking around the campus alone to get a feel of the flavor of the place. Visit the student center and a dining hall if you can, listen to students talk, and try to get a sense if those you meet are people around whom you would like to spend the next four years.
- Explore the areas of campus (and the surrounding area) where you think you will spend the most time. Walk around the academic departments that interest you. Take note of lectures and colloquia offered within given departments. Look at bulletin boards outside the offices of professors and take note of the kinds of internships and research that are available, the sorts of visitors from other university who come to speak, and ask yourself if you are excited by what you see.
- Try to find current students with whom you can speak. No one will be more candid about the experience of attending a college than the students who currently live and study on campus.
- Take notes during your visits. Some colleges will begin to look and sound alike after many days of visits – not to mention weeks later when you are reviewing your list! It is so helpful to jot down quick impressions and notes of a place when you get back to the car.
Should I Interview? What Should I Say?
The short answer here is “yes.” If any colleges on your list require interviews, you should schedule on (on campus or with the regional admissions officer, when possible). If interviews are optional, you should make an effort to schedule one. Some colleges offer interviews with alumni. These interviews weigh less in the admissions process than those from schools where interviews with admissions staff are required, but they can be helpful and informative.
A few pieces of advice before the interview:
- Visit each college’s Web site and pay close attention to their interview policies, requirements, and deadlines.
- Be prompt. Call if you are running late or if you need directions. This is no time to become a human GPS!
- Try to be relaxed. Dress neatly and appropriately. Formal is not necessary, but try to stay away from very casual clothing.
- Turn off your cell phone and do not chew gum.
- Avoid asking questions that are already answered in the college’s literature, and be prepared to ask thoughtful questions of your own.
- Be prepared to engage in a conversation. You should talk about your strengths, what excites you intellectually and socially.
- Take time to write a thank-you note or e-mail to the person who interviewed you.
Some Questions You Might Expect and Prepare for in College Interviews
- What is your role in your school community? What would your teachers say about you? What are words your friends might use to describe you?
- How do you like Tower Hill? What has been your most positive experience at THS? The most negative? What would you like to change about Tower Hill?
- What are you looking for in a college beyond a beautiful campus and good location? How did you become interested in that particular college?
- What significant contributions have you made to your school?
- You may not have any idea of what you would like to study – or you may well change your mind – but what are some of your personal and career goals for the future?
- What might you study in college? Are there academic areas of study that have not been offered in high school that you might like to explore in college?
- Tell me about a particular class or class assignment in which you found yourself stimulated intellectually. Tell me about a teacher who has been particularly good.
- Why are you interested in a liberal arts college? In a technical college geared toward math and science? In a large university? In a small college?
- Which have been your favorite subjects in high school? Why?
- How and in what ways do you plan or hope to transfer your secondary school contributions, achievements, and activities to the college level?
- How have you spent your summers?
- What books or writers have made a lasting impression on your way of thinking? Why?
- Many qualified students apply to this college. What characteristics single you out from the others? Why do you think you are a good match for this college?
- Have you ever thought about taking some time off from school or not going to college right away? What would you do with your time?
- If you could spend six months doing anything of your choosing, what would it be?
- How do you spend your free time?
- What personal, local, or world events have been impactful in your life so far? What has influenced you most?
- Who has influenced you most in life?
- Describe ways in which you are different from others at your school.
- Do you have any questions? (Have some in mind!)