Many students cannot imagine applying to a school they have never visited. They are looking for their new home and want to evaluate not just academic offerings and experiential learning opportunities, but also the physical environment, the social climate, and other aspects more easily perceived through personal experience.
Other students take a different approach: “I’ll visit the campus if I’m admitted,” they say. For these students this seems like an efficient use of time and money – why visit before you even know if you will receive an offer of admission?
There are plenty of reasons, however, to explore schools thoroughly before applying – the high rate of college transfers is one; the limited response time to an admission offer – and therefore the limited time to make that visit – is another.
But sometimes an early visit can affect whether or not the admission offer is even made. Here are three reasons a campus visit can increase admission possibilities for college applicants:
Schools want to offer admittance to students who will accept; it’s easier to signal these intentions convincingly if you have taken the time to visit. And it’s not just a matter of registering for a visit and signing in at the welcome table – you will also probably be able to introduce yourself to your regional admissions representative (that’s the person who will manage your application) and/or schedule an interview. (Interviews, by the way, provide an additional occasion to indicate how serious you are about your application to the campus.)
Once you’ve visited a school you’ll be able to enhance any supplemental essays – specifically, those that ask for a response to “Why Us?” – with references to your own live experiences. Consider prompts such as this one from Vassar College: How did you learn about Vassar and what aspects of our college do you find appealing? Or this one from Northwestern: What are the unique qualities of Northwestern that make you want to attend the University? Students who have visited campus may be able to make more concrete connections between what they are looking for and what the campus offers; and will probably be able to craft a more genuine and specific answer, including observations or anecdotes from their visit.
Students who are wait-listed each spring usually have to move on – many more are wait-listed than will eventually be admitted. If this happens to you at a school you consider to be your top-choice, you can contact the admissions office by phone and/or letter to ask for further consideration. Think about how you will make your case for why you are such a good fit for this school, and when you mention it’s your top-choice, how much more believable you will be if you can mention your campus visit.
Schools certainly understand when expenses and distance prevent a visit before application. But if you are serious about gaining admission to a school that you can easily visit on a weekend or school holiday, you may increase your admission possibilities by visiting before you hit the submit application key.