Campus visits are an essential part of the college admission and decision process. Nothing can replace the experience of visiting a campus to experience the feeling and to help determine whether the school is a good fit for your student. Most campus visits are similar – a presentation by admission staff, maybe a student panel, possibly an interview, and a campus tour. That will give your student an overall feeling for a school, but may not give the total picture.
It may be important for your student to dig a little deeper in order to get a real feel for a school. Grabbing a snack or a meal in the dining area may help, talking to some current students (not just admission tour guides) may help, just sitting in the Student Center or on a bench on campus may help. But during the course of your student’s college career, she may spend close to 2000 hours in class. One important tool for judging the feel of a college is sitting in on one, or more, classes.
Many colleges offer class visits as part of their campus visit options. However, your student may need to specifically ask about visiting a class. Most schools have a list of potential classes that students may visit. It may be necessary to make an appointment and/or contact the professor in advance, or the college may simply suggest that your student show up a few minutes before a class and ask the professor’s permission. Some schools may provide a current student to escort your student to class and introduce her to the professor.
If your student is interested in visiting a class while on campus, here are a few things to remember:
- Most colleges will allow or arrange for students to visit classes if asked. However, you should not plan to join your student. Class visits are generally for students only.
- Your student should plan to arrive about 10 minutes before class and introduce herself to the professor.
- Your student should plan to stay for the whole class.
- Remind your student to turn off – and put away – her phone. It is not appropriate to text or to take pictures.
- Your student is there to observe the class. Unless specifically invited by the professor, she should not participate in the discussion.
- Your student will need to remember that she is possibly coming to class in the middle of the semester. She may feel overwhelmed by the material. That is natural. The other students have had several weeks to come up to speed.
- Not every major will have classes available to visit. If your student has a particular class that she is hoping to visit, she should ask. But she should be ready to be flexible. No matter what class she visits, she will get a sense of classes at that school.
- Your student should keep in mind that this is a single visit to a single class. Professors are different and content varies. This will provide a helpful snapshot, but will not give the complete picture of college classes.
- In addition to listening to and observing the professor, your student should observe the other students as well. Do they seem engaged? Are they participating? Do they appear challenged and excited or overwhelmed or bored?
- Your student should remember to thank the professor after class.
A class visit is just one piece in the decision-making puzzle, but it can be an important one. It will give your student a window into the academic world of college. Your student will have a better sense of whether the college feels like a good fit – and hopefully, your student will be even more excited about the learning that will take place during her college years!