I just saw this article written by a student about her experience with campus visits. I wish I could say her comments are off-base, but they are mostly on target. Too many colleges fail to grasp that effective marketing means spelling out how you are different from the competition. Information sessions and tours as the key elements of campus visits become repetitive for students.

Colleges typically focus on what every school appears to believe are “hot buttons” for applicants. That means promising research opportunities from day one. Of course, the skeptics in the audience wonder how often the many grad students at State U. are going to step aside for college sophomores. Internships are plentiful as well and opportunities for study abroad, will of course, be amazing. Also, we never fail to hear that there are over [fill in the blank] clubs and organizations on campus. The professors are, of course, dedicated teachers and always accessible.

What would we like to hear more about on a campus visit? Maybe it would be helpful for a student to talk about the class registration process. Can I count on getting most or all of the classes I want or need every time? Who gets priority? An administrator or professor could tell us about the classroom experience they foster at this institution. Maybe someone could mention academic departments that are growing or hungering for more interested students. How about providing more details about the academic support services available. Is support primarily coming from peer tutors. Or are there professionals available to help with writing, time management and other needs? In either case, how are they chosen?

I think we would all like to know what makes this college distinctive, a top choice, relative to others like in this part of the country.

So what should the concerned student do on a campus visit that is not offering much to go by? Ask questions, and if you get incomplete or evasive answers, go to a dining hall or student center and ask some students. I have found that most are happy to help.

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