Visiting colleges can be an important part of the decision-making process. It is ideal to see a school and get a sense of the campus prior to applying. A visit may give a student the opportunity to participate in group information sessions, interview, take a tour, meet students, spend the night in a dorm, and talk with faculty members and/or coaches.
Interviews can be a helpful part of the college application process. An interview is an opportunity to learn more about a school and to make a valuable connection with the admissions office. At the same time, the school has a chance to get to know the student in a way that goes beyond the paperwork.
It is worth noting that many colleges do not offer interviews. Students should check individual college’s websites to see whether, when, where, and how interviews may be scheduled.
Visits vary, from the formal to the casual. Families may want to start with informal visits to local schools, just to get a sense of different kinds of campuses. A student who is serious about a particular college will want to schedule a more official visit, which will probably include a campus tour and an interview.
Families often begin visiting schools during the junior year. It is a good idea to visit while classes are in session to get the fullest picture of the college. That said, visiting when school is not in session is still better than no visit at all.
It is worth calling prior to any visit to schedule tours, ask about interviews, and start to form a relationship with the admissions office. Please note that not all schools offer on-campus interviews, and those that do tend to fill up far in advance.
Things To Do on a Visit
Schools usually offer information sessions and tours to visiting students. For a fuller sense of the school, visiting families and students may want to:
- Wander around the campus alone.
- Sit in the library and read for a bit.
- Explore the school bookstore.
- Have a meal at one of the eating venues.
- Read the student newspaper.
- See what information is posted on bulletin boards around campus.
- Sit in on a class of interest. (Schedule this ahead of time through the admissions office.)
- Try to see a dorm that's not on the tour.
- Sit outside as students walk to class.
- Walk or drive around the community surrounding the campus.
- Ask lots and lots of questions (see below).
Asking questions should be a primary focus of any college visit. Families should start with the admissions office staff, who should be prepared to answer such questions candidly and with substantial information. Student tour guides will usually answer with equal candor, but may have a narrower perspective.
Families should also feel free to stop a student or faculty member on campus and ask questions. These individuals will often give very helpful information.
Possible questions include:
- What are the school's greatest strengths?
- If you could change anything about the school, what would it be?
- What are the most popular majors?
- What are the newest buildings on campus?
- Does the school require, suggest, or encourage students to live on campus? Is there guaranteed housing for all four years?
- What are the dining plans? Do the students like the food?
- What do students do on weekends? On weeknights?
- What issues are students or faculty on campus concerned about?
- Why did you choose this school?
Types of Interviews
The candidate meets with a member of the admissions staff or with a trained alumnus/alumna. This interview may take place on or off campus. A record of the interview becomes part of the application folder.
The candidate meets with a member of the admissions staff or a student, usually on campus, to obtain information about the school. The interview does not become part of the application folder.
- The Park School college counselors are available throughout the year for practice interview sessions.
- Everything contributes to one's overall impression, including appearance, promptness, speaking ability, manners, eye contact, friendliness, and poise.
- Interviews usually focus on academic and extracurricular interests. Students should be prepared to speak substantively about their experiences in particular classes and activities.
- Parents usually do not sit in on interviews; however, they often may ask questions of the interviewer when the session is over.
- An interview should feel like a conversation, with a lot of give and take. Students should be ready to both answer and ask questions.
- It is important to do research before an interview. Students should be generally familiar with information about the school.
- Students should write thank-you emails or notes after every interview and be sure to keep a record of the name of the person who conducted the interview.
- Have you selected a particular field of study?
- What are your favorite/least favorite subjects in school?
- Tell me about your high school. What do you like or dislike about it?
- To what other schools have you applied?
- How do you spend your after-school time? Your weekends?
- If you were given extra free time, how would you spend it?
- What do you like to read? What have you read recently?
- How did you spend your summer?
- How would you describe yourself to someone who does not know you?
- What is the most important thing you have learned in high school?
- What persons do you most admire? Why?
- What would you consider to be your strongest personal characteristic? Your weakest?
- Why are you interested in this particular college?