Life Hacks: What To Look For On A College Visit

The list of potential institutions can be exhausting, just pick your top priorities before visiting.
The list of potential institutions can be exhausting, just pick your top priorities before visiting. | Source

The Importance of the College Visit

College is one of the most exciting and integral parts of a young adults formative years. What you study, how you manage your time and even where you attend are key in deciding what kind of man or woman you will be in the professional world. Because of this importance, college visits are a necessary aspect college preparation. Still, for many, these visits can be difficult, as different facets of numerous schools can all seem appealing making the decision process seemingly impossible. Students everywhere may often feel blind and alone during the process of choosing an institution of study. There are few Life Hacks that make this process simple, but preparing yourself can allow you to gain an edge. These proceeding factors are all key issues you should address while attending your various college tours. Focusing your attention on these five criteria will allow you to better compare prospective colleges.

While clearly and exaggeration, many dorm facilities are out-dated and not properly maintained.
While clearly and exaggeration, many dorm facilities are out-dated and not properly maintained. | Source
Make sure your living space is comfortable, well-equipped, and has a little touch of home.
Make sure your living space is comfortable, well-equipped, and has a little touch of home. | Source

1. Living Space

For many students, much of your time in college will be spent in whatever student housing property you find yourself living in. Whether you plan to live on campus at one of the dorm facilities or further away in an apartment or townhouse, this will be your home for a considerable amount of time. Ensure you get a look at potential housing while visiting. Ask yourself questions similar to these; Is the dorm room or apartment comfortable; Does a prospective housing unit have Wi-fi or some other form of internet access; Are these living spaces in desirable locations; and is there proper transportation from your dwelling space to whatever classroom facilities you will be frequenting?

Often on my own college visits an ill-fit dorm or apartment in a bad community was enough to dissuade me from choosing to attend an institution. When students aren't in class, 9 times out of 10 they are at home studying, resting, sleeping or relaxing in front of a television or computer. The ability to cool-off is too often overlooked by hopeful and ambitious graduates. While a college may offer an A+ rated education, students often struggle to stay motivated if they are not happy away from classes. Make sure that available living spaces will adequately replace your former dwelling, and allow you to have a place that is all your own.

2. Living Costs

Though a living space may fulfill all your aesthetic and comfort criteria, students must also remember to consider the affordability of living in a given location. Whether looking into a dorm or apartment, ensure you or your child understand all the additional costs that accompany independent living. Consider these questions; Can I afford paying a monthly rental fee or extra yearly tuition; Is there access to any meal plans and how much do they cost; Are the local food joints reasonably priced; What kind of grocery stores are accessible in the area? Student ambassadors and surrounding college learners can provide an astonishing amount of insight into such considerations as they have lived the life you are getting ready to embark upon. Depending on your parental funding, keep in mind you will have to pay for everything involved with living. Make sure you choose somewhere that is affordable to you. Stressing yourself out with financial issues is the last thing you need while you are focusing on exams, essays and homework.


The cost of living differentiates between different locations and should always be a factor in your search.
The cost of living differentiates between different locations and should always be a factor in your search. | Source

Life Hack Resources

Definitely, use your resources before you ever leave the home. Many websites provide statistics on graduation rates, placement rates and even financial aid amounts. These lists can help narrow your search parameters before you even leave the couch. The amount of money saved on excess applications, travel costs and other pay-for-help solutions can go a long way in easing the headache that is college selection. Here are just a few recommendations.

1. http://oedb.org/rankings/

One of my favorites, the Open Education Database helps compile lists of statistics and ranks colleges based on job placement, graduation and retention rates.

2. http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

Similarly, the Institute of Education and Science compiles statistics onto their College Navigator. What makes this tool special is the fact that specific information about college offerings is included and their interface allows for specified searches to speed up the search process.

3. http://www.petersons.com/

In addition to a slew of helpful information for prospective college students, Nelnet's Peterson Company has developed a helpful search tool which allows you to further narrow your searches based on setting, selectivity, student population and many other factors.

3. Placement Rates for Your Desired Major

Some universities will boast extremely high graduation and job placement rates. While these institutions aren't lying, they are often skewing or omitting some facts. Make sure you discuss percentages and statistics for your specific major. Ask where it ranks nationally, what the average grades are and most importantly what the job outlook is like. Though pamphlets might say something like "72% job placement for our students," many of these college grads may have come from Business or Engineering programs rather then English or Psychology degree programs. While an overall placement percentage may be high, your specific degree could be very low. Make sure you find out from ambassadors and other counselors at the visit, as it is important to ensure that your hard work will be translatable to the professional community.

4. Community

Now, to be honest, this is a very broad category that may involve some real in depth observing. The campus you are visiting may be the place you live for the next four or more years. The people around you will grow to be your friends, coworkers, fellow students and neighbors; the facilities both on and off campus will be your source for entertainment, study space and even food; the employment opportunities offered in the vicinity will be what you rely on to provide personal finances. Make sure you like the community. Are their jobs available that you will enjoy; are the people friendly; do you have anyone from your hometown attending; are their enough places to go have fun in your off-time?

While you can get a good education without these aspects of the college experience, the journey can become very dull and difficult. If you enjoy college, your are more likely to enjoy your professional life. When at all possible, try to associate your career path with enjoyable feelings. Participating in your community, whether it be legally visiting a bar with friends, playing video games, joining a club or simply working, should all provide you with some semblance of joy or at the least contentment. Ask around; spend the afternoon on campus frequenting whatever downtown area that is available; but most of all, try to have a good time. If you can't, this might not be the university for you.

Some college communities can truly make your experience and have gained national attention because of this.
Some college communities can truly make your experience and have gained national attention because of this. | Source

5. Faculty

Probably the most key aspect of your college education is the professors and other instructors you will be taught by. Above all, make sure your college visit involves sitting in on a few different classroom settings. For some, large lecture halls can be scary, others dislike really small hands-on classrooms, and for more, a set of professors may just not educate in a style that is fitting for them. Though study space, facilities, tech-services, and other aspects of what an institution provides are nice, they will not change the classroom setting. Only by finding good professors can a prospective student hope to receive an effective and high-quality education.

Sit in on as many classes as possible; ask current students and student ambassadors what their thoughts are on good instructors; collect as many names as you can for educators in your field of study. With all this information you can get a better look at what a university has to offer. Visit student forums and name check professors while also using resources like RateMyProfessors.com. These websites can give past and current student opinions on instructors, making the decision process much more informed then ever before. If you dislike available professors, run. You cannot get a great education if you are unable to properly learn from available instructors.

Reader's Poll

What is or was the most important aspect for you when choosing a college?

  • Community
  • Faculty
  • Setting
  • Distance From Home
  • Living Costs and Space
  • Rankings
  • Tradition
  • Program
  • Other (Please leave a comment below)
See results without voting

A Final Thought

Whatever collegiate institution you choose, there will always be things you love and things you hate. Nothing can ever be completely perfect. Visit as many colleges as possible, take even more notes, and be patient when deciding between different options. Though this may be one of the most impacting decisions of your life, ensuring you weigh all pros and cons can mean the difference between graduating and dropping out. But most of all, stay positive, stay happy, and stay hopeful. Creating a strong foundation for your career path begins with your attitude, and no college visit can dictate who you are as a prospective college student. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below, I would love to give as much advice as possible. Cheers, folks!

The future awaits and your opportunity is limitless!
The future awaits and your opportunity is limitless! | Source

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