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With high school graduations underway or just around the corner, many students are considering their next step – where they’ll go to college. If you’re one of the many students still weighing their options, a college visit can be the critical, deciding factor in where you’ll go.

The ultimate aim of college visits is to determine if that college is the right fit for you – you want a place that feels like home. To get the most out of a college visit, you’ll need to bring the right things with you and do certain things while you’re on campus. These college visit tips will help you get started.

College Visit Tip 1: What to Bring on a College Tour

  • Camera and Recorder – A smartphone works perfectly for both these functions. You’ll want to take pictures of the campuses you visit, as comparing their visual differences may jumpstart a comparison of their academic differences and program offerings. You’ll want a recorder for informational sessions you attend during college visits, just so you aren’t trying to scribble down notes the whole time.
  • Notebook and Pen – Even if you’ve got a recorder, there may be parts of college visits they do not want to be recorded or photographed. You’ll want a notebook and pen to jot down thoughts during these times.
  • Good Walking Shoes – You will be doing a lot of walking on campus tours. Wear good shoes – your feet will thank you later.
  • A Positive Attitude – Choosing a college is a daunting task, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fulfilling and fun. Even if you’re feeling pressure to choose a college, college visits are your information gathering phase of that decision. Keep an open mind. If one college visit turns out to be disappointing, remind yourself you’ve got several others that will present better options.

College VisitsCollege Visit Tip 2: What to Do on a College Tour

  • Talk to the students. You’ll want to find out if the students there are people you can click with and who have similar interests to you. For example, at a technical art college like Cogswell, you will find students interested in artistic pursuits, animation and videos games. If you have aligned aspirations, you’ll get along much better with your peers and have a more satisfying college career. Not to mention, you will get the most honest answers about how the school is from its current students.
  • Visit the department chair of your interested major. If you have decided on the field you want to study, see if you can schedule an appointment with the department chairs during your college visits. This is a great way to get a sense of how the department is, what courses you would take, who your professors are and what they are like, and opportunities that exist in that major. If you’re unsure about your major, schedule a few of these.
  • Visit labs as well as classrooms. See what equipment students use, particularly for computer science, animation and gaming courses. Ask to check out their esports teams, or where students explore in virtual reality. Find a college where you are exposed to the latest and greatest new technologies.
  • Check out housing options. It’s good to see where students hang out and how they spend their time.
  • Check out the surrounding area. College doesn’t exist in a bubble, and there’s life outside the campus. During your college visits, also check out the surrounding city or surrounding area. Find out how close it is local eateries, arts venues, or other amenities. Explore local transit options and roadways to get a sense of how easy or difficult it is to get around. See what businesses operate in the local area. For example, Cogswell’s Silicon Valley location puts it near major tech players like Apple and Cisco.

College Visit TipsCollege Visit Tip 3: Questions to Answer on a College Tour

  • Is this your creative and productive haven? Is this a place you would rather learn and improve at than anywhere else? In a way, you should think of college visits like home shopping. You are looking to get the right feeling – the sense that this is a home away from home. A big part of that isn’t just the academic environment, but the student life aspect. What clubs are there?
  • What is this college missing? No college is perfect, and you need to note where a college does not fit your vision along with where it matches your aspirations. That way, you can go back and see if you’re willing to make concessions if a particular college is only missing a few aspects from what you’re seeking.
  • What career/internships opportunities exist? It may seem like this is a question for later down the road, but you should consider college as your next career move, and ask what doors it can open for you. Look at where alumni from your college ended up, in particular, alumni from your intended major. For example, Cogswell alumni have gone to jobs with companies like Disney, DreamWorks, Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Microsoft, and Apple.

Don’t downplay your college choice – it is a difficult decision. You can always start your college visits by contacting college admissions departments to get a lay of the land and find out how to take that next step in your career path.