How to prepare for your first college visit

Justin Verlinden
Justin Verlinden
September 3, 2019

Visiting schools is one of the most integral (and fun) parts of the college selection process. Schools may look great on paper, but the only way to know if the school is the right fit for you is to go and get a feel for campus life.

As an admissions ambassador, prospective students ask me all the time about how to make the most of a college visit. So, today I'm oing to give YOU the rundown on 10 things to consider when planning a college visit!

Do your research

Don't visit a school just because you like the mascot or because your cousin went there. Do some research to make sure they have the program(s) that you're interested in. 

It's also good to know some basic facts about the school to get a sense about the number of students who go tehre, the admissions requirements, the geographic location, etc. This way, you won't be caught off guard when you get there.

Kill two birds with one stone

Often visiting a college requires quite a drive. I remember when I visited the University of Kentucky it took SEVEN hours to drive there and my parents and I had to stay overnight in Lexington.

For trips like these, see if any schools you're interested in are close enough to visit in the same trip. You'll save time, money and gas not driving back and forth for multiple visits. Plus, you'll be able to more accurately compare schools since they'll all be fresh in your mind.

Schedule an official visit

The next step is to schedule your visit. A lot of schools will accept walk-ins, but I would highly recommend scheduling an official visit instead. Scheduling an official visit allows you to have a more individualized experience catered specifically to you. 

You'll be guaranteed to get a tour of campus and meet an admissions counselor. You can also meet with professors and eat lunch in the dining hall.

You can schedule visits at most schools online or over the phone. Depending on where you are in the search process, you can schedule a group or individual visit at Augustana online. 

Come with questions

There's no such thing as a bad question and this is your chance to find out as much as you can about a school. Bring a list of questions that are important to you and be prepared to ask your tour guide and admissions counselor for answers.

Bring something to take notes on

You're going to be inundated with more information than you'll know what to do with. So you might forget a lot of it by the time you get home.

Bring a small notepad, or use notes on your phone, to jot down anything that you think is really important. better yet, write down the answers to the questions you came up with i the previous step.

Note: there's no need to remember miscellaneous info like when the school was founded or how many squirrel statues are hidden on campus (there are twelve at Augustana, for the record). Yes, that information can be fun but it probably won't be one of your deciding factors.

Dress appropriately

Visits involve a lot of walking. So wear comfortable shoes and prepare to get your steps in.

Check the forecast before your visit and make sure you wear something weather-appropriate, and bring an umbrella in case there's rain. 

In terms of how much you need to dress up, there's no need to wear anything formal. Just wear whatever is comfortable for you.

Visit a dorm

This is where you might live! Make sure there's enough space for all of your essential belongings, what the roommate and bathroom situation is like and find out how residential life works at each school.

At Augustana, almost all students live on campus until their senior year and there are specific living areas for each class.

Eat lunch in the dining hall

If you’re spending the next four years of your life at this place, you better enjoy the food. Get a taste (pun intended) of their food selection by eating at the dining hall. It’s also a nice way to learn how meal plans work at the college and what food options they have for students.

Talk to at least one student and one professor

It’s important to get the student perspective of things to see what they think of campus and why they chose the school. This is pretty easy to do since your tour guide will most likely be a student. 

If you can, also try to talk to a professor too (preferably one in the academic field you want to go into). This’ll give you a sneak peek of the overall learning community at the school and important information about that academic field. 

Explore the town

Lastly, before you head back home, feel free to explore the area surrounding the college. Get a sense of what there is to do and maybe hit up some local favorite restaurants and attractions. 

If you come to Augustana, I would highly recommend trying Whitey’s Ice Cream (voted as one of the best ice cream places in the ENTIRE WORLD by the Daily Meal) or Harris Pizza (just one of many pizza places which serve Quad Cities style pizza). Both are close to campus and will leave you stuffed (don’t worry, all the calories you burned walking makes up for it).  

If you have extra time, check out this list of interest-based itineraries in the Quad Cities to get the best experience. 

So there you have it! Now you are well on your way to start visiting colleges (including Augustana) and making the most of the visits.

Justin Verlinden
Justin Verlinden

Justin graduated in 2020, double majoring in biology and neuroscience with a minor in creative writing. He conducted research at Baylor College of Medicine, where he investigated the use of several brain imaging scans to detect early structural and functional differences in young mice with Alzheimer's, with the hope of eventually developing an early diagnostic tool for the disease. He currently is pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Kentucky.