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9 Things to Check Out During a College Visit

A young woman with light skin and blond hair stands on a college campus wearing a bright red mask.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Imagine: you walk onto your dream school’s campus. Instantly, the bustling, hectic chaos of college life completely surrounds you.

The lush campus greens, grand buildings, dynamic quads, and hordes of students can often be a sensory overload leaving your experience to be more of a fever dream than a valuable tool.

Seeing a school is a golden opportunity that some students do not have the opportunity to take advantage of. When it comes to “Why Usessays and other supplements, interviews, and even making a final decision, the school visit can be the icing on the cake if utilized right, so why not see the little things that matter to you?

Here are a few things to pay attention to and take notes of during a school visit.

1. The Entrance

The entrance is the first thing you’ll see when you step onto a school’s campus and can help determine whether a school would be a good fit or not. Some people prefer a closed-off campus with minimal entrances for increased security while some want to be more immersed in the city or area they live in and its local residents.

Make sure to make a note of this and how important this factor is to you. This can aid in final decision making when choosing a school or choosing where to apply to a school.

2. The Dorms

This is where you will be living for at least your first year. By paying close attention to the dorms, you can start to get a good picture of what your day-to-day life would look like at the school you are visiting.

Whether you are looking at first-year dorms, upperclassmen dorms, or honors dorms, these residences and the living amenities associated with them can make an impression of what attending a particular school is like.

Plus, adding where you could see yourself living in a “Why Us” essay shows that you have done your research on the school and can see yourself there.

3. The Dining Options/Halls

Similar to dorms, this is the food you will be eating throughout your time at the school. If you have any sort of dietary restrictions, make sure the school’s facilities can accommodate your needs.

When it comes to preference, some people need a more structured meal with exact proportions, while some prefer to design their plates how they want to look.

When choosing schools, these are some of the factors which can make your experience better. While it is not possible in all campus tours, try to eat in a dining hall and gain that experience.

Questions To Ask On College Tours

4. Library

Libraries are an important resource while at a school. Group projects, study spaces, research projects, books, and even some club meetings (depending on the school) could find their way into the library.

Over your four years at a school, you will most likely partake in all of these ventures and will find your way into the library. By looking at a library, you can get a sense of a school’s study culture—whether it is much heavier on quiet efficient studying or more social and leisurely.

When writing a “Why Us” essay, being able to picture yourself at an institution can separate a good essay from a great one. A library is a great place for these visualizations.

5. Study Spaces

While a library acts as a study space, campuses often have many many more studying options including coffee shops and cafes, gardens, outdoor tables, businesses around the school, and random classrooms in residential buildings.

By finding potential study locations, you can, again, visualize your day-to-day life at an institution, show the school that you have done deeper research into a school by looking beyond just libraries, and begin to familiarize yourself with the campus.

6. Surrounding Area

When committing to a school, you are also committing to the local area and community so make sure you vibe with the local area as well when you visit a school.

Exploring the local area expands a school beyond what it can offer and provides options for work, fun, places to study, and restaurants to indulge in on special occasions and weekends.

Of course, different students tend to interact with the surrounding area in different ways and amounts, but you do not want to feel only comfortable or only enjoy staying within your school’s bounds. Also, in the case you can not try out a dining hall, it could be fun to eat at a local restaurant.

7. Popular Streets and/or Shopping Areas

Whether it is a street, a little shopping mall, or just a bookstore, all schools have some sort of culture-filled atmosphere where you can get school merch. While purchasing this merch is not necessary for expressing interest in a school or to determine your fit, the general atmosphere can help determine the school culture.

College is an exciting time and it is more fun to be an active member and fan of your school. The cultural climate of a school can sometimes not be explained but when writing a “Why Us” essay, this feeling can help influence word and phrase choices signaling to the school that you really found your best fit.

8. Landmarks

Most schools have a notable statue, bench, building, or historical place. While on a campus tour, it can be fun to learn about these and learn more about the institution.

These notable features often make great pictures for personal memory, commitment posts, or just personal satisfaction. The campus tour is a hugely beneficial tool; however, you want to enjoy it as well so make sure you take advantage of these opportunities!

9. Facilities

This includes gyms and other sports facilities for an athlete, practice rooms for instrumentalists and vocalists, labs for someone interested in research, etc.

If you have an interest or major with a dedicated space on campus, try to check it out and get a feel for that school’s spaces. This interest or major is tied to your identity and what you would partake in while at a school so the school would love to hear about it in a “Why Us” essay.

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Author: Colin Davis

Hi everyone!! I'm Colin and I am a freshman at Columbia University in New York City! Currently my major is biochemistry on a premed. Growing up in a suburban town with not too much to do, I knew going to school in a city (or at least city-adjacent) was a big deal for me, so I spend a lot of time exploring the city with my friends. Other than that, I love to write anything under the spectrum from research papers or scatterbrained poetry, sing, compose music, and cook. Happy reading!