Health & Family

Make that campus visit more meaningful

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what NOT to do on your campus visit.

Today, as we creep closer to the all-important spring-break campus visits, let’s focus on the positive: things you should do during campus visits that will make them more meaningful.

Seven tips that will make a difference in your campus visit:

1. Do your homework. Families should make a point of being well-informed before visiting campuses. Know some details about each college: freshman retention rate, its four- and six-year graduation rates, the percentage of students studying abroad, as well as the percentage of students who have internships before they graduate. The more you know going in will mean you’ll be asking smarter questions and be digging deeper for answers while you’re there.

2. Ask the same questions at each visit. Students and families need to have a basic understanding of priorities. Colleges and universities vary greatly. Focus on the features that will help you compare colleges effectively.

3. Document your trip. It’s so easy with smartphones: You can snap pictures, create your own video tour, interview current students, etc. Additionally, be sure to have each member of your family take notes during the information session, and take separate tours if possible.

4. Get in touch. Try to identify someone (older brother or sister of a friend, etc.) on each campus with whom to connect. Grab a cup of coffee and pepper them with a variety of questions. These interactions can have a huge effect on your impression of each college.

5. Let them know you’re there. An increasing number of colleges track student interactions and refer to it as “demonstrated interest.” Enrollment managers use this metric to help them predict their yield, or the likelihood that accepted students will attend. Some colleges have determined that if you show interest, i.e., visit their college, send a question to the admissions office, meet the admissions representative at your school, attend the college fair, etc., you are more likely to attend.

6. Drive around the area and get a glimpse of what’s within walking distance, how safe the neighborhood appears and where you might hang out. Are there enough entertainment/shopping/restaurant options to keep you engaged for the next four years?

7. And probably one of the most helpful tips: Get lost on campus. Ask “regular” students, not tour guides, what they like most and least about their school. See what isn’t on the tour and check out how friendly and helpful students can be.

Try to see the unscripted side of a college on your own time.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;