Immerse yourself in campus life on your tour- be confident and connect with other students.
While applying to undergraduate degree programs you no doubt visited the campuses of schools that struck your interest, looking around, sampling the atmosphere and facilities and possibly joining a tour. And this vital step is just as important when deciding on which graduate school to attend, particularly if you are moving away from home and completing the course on-campus as opposed to online. Campus visits are an opportune time to learn more about an institution of study and gauge a sense of whether the school is right for you.
Whether this is your first campus tour or hundredth, it is a wise idea to brush up on some strategies for getting the very most out of your visit. Check out campus visits 101 guide below:
1. Come prepared
It's important to conduct research prior to your visit so you know as much about the school in question as possible – it's not an efficient use of time to simply show up on campus without any prior knowledge. With preparation, The New York Times explained that it will be easier to ask more detailed questions that can give you a more accurate feel for what your experience at the institution might be like. For example, don't ask obvious questions about academic programs, especially if that information is in the brochure. Ask your tour guides about career opportunities, campus societies that welcome graduate students, the social scene on campus and locally and so on.
2. Plan for an open house day
There is some value in planning your visit on Open House day, as you'll have a better chance of being able to speak with professors and department chairs and receive guided and informative tours, Idealist detailed. The drawback to open house days, of course, is that the institution will likely go to great lengths to ensure that the school comes across as well as possible. This means you may not get an accurate impression of daily life on campus.
3. Ask to attend class
If you are strongly considering attending the school you are touring, Idealist advised asking some professors you admire if you could sit in on one of their classes to get a feel for the curriculum and the instructor's teaching style. This is also a great way to demonstrate excitement and enthusiasm for the institution, something which will likely be remembered during the admissions interview and selection process.
4. Take your time
U.S. News & World Report argued that it's important to spend as much time as possible on campus to get a more informed understanding of the institution. That means setting aside a whole day and spending it at one school – don't head to several universities in one day, even though that may be tempting. The more time you spend at one location, the more informed you'll be.
5. Speak to an admissions counselor
If possible, schedule a meeting with the campus admissions counselor for an informal discussion, Idealist recommended. This should be done within plenty of time – do not show up on the day and expect to be seen, as it can come across as rude, unprepared and informal.
The meeting will be valuable in terms of learning more about the application process, financial aid opportunities, acceptance rates and so on. The meeting is also an opportune time to make a good impression – if you show up dressed professionally and displaying confidence and enthusiasm, there is a solid chance that you will impress.
6. Speak with professors in your prospective department
Another important stop that should be included on your campus tour is a visit to the department you are applying to, Idealist argued. Research the head of graduate studies online and arrange a meeting if possible, and if you have the time, try to speak with some professors in your preferred department. These conversations not only provide you with valuable insight into the program, they also demonstrate to the faculty that you are a keen and dedicated student. Fantastic first impressions at this stage can help pave the way for harmonious working relationships later on, should you get accepted.
7. Start talking
Try to be as friendly and outgoing as possible and strike up conversations with fellow students, preferably in your graduate program of choice. Students will likely be more honest about their experiences of the college when away from scheduled tours and events, so this is a useful way to gain more insight.
8. Review campus media
While you have likely reviewed the university website, be sure to check out other forms of campus media, particularly that which is run by students. For example, as The New York Times noted, the school newspaper is a great window into everyday campus life, while social media pages for on-campus groups can give you a flavor of the social scene. In essence, do some digging and learn as much as you can.
9. Spend the night if possible
To get an greater feel for the school and surrounding area, try to schedule an overnight stay, The New York Times advised. Perhaps head to an on-campus social event or club gathering, use the campus sports facilities or gym, or head further afield to a local restaurant or bar. Staying overnight will give you a more authentic feel for everyday life at the school and you'll be able to gauge a clearer sense of how your free time will be spent.
10. Tour campus accommodations
Visiting campus accommodations may be included on the tour, but if it's not, be sure to ask to see the graduate dorms if you are planning on living on campus. Get a feel for the accomodations and ask for information about pricing, meal plans and so on. It may be more cost-effective to live on campus, or it may be cheaper to live in an independent residence. The price will vary, contingent on the city, cost of living and so on.