Now that most of the offers for college admission for the fall have been extended, the issue of revisiting campuses comes up. Uncertain students are thinking: Can I visit one more time to be sure? And some parents are thinking: Didn't we spend last spring break doing this?
If you can swing it, many experts say it's a good idea to check out the college again before making a commitment. Students look at it through a different lens on a revisit, says Brenda Poznanski, director of guidance at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, N.H., and president-elect of the New England National Association for College Admission Counseling. Academics are likely strong on every campus, so it comes down to the culture of a school. "This time, figure out if you can actually fit in there," she says.
Eat in the cafeteria. Find out how often you would meet with your adviser. Look into whether you would get home on breaks by car, bus, or train. Pay attention to the housing options and consider if you will be comfortable in a room for four. "These kids are used to having their own rooms, cars, and bathroom. The conveniences of home are very different," says Poznanski.
If financial aid is an issue, go to the campus office and ask for an appointment. "It's harder to say no to someone in person," she says.
Sarah McGinty, an independent educational consultant in Boston and author of "The College Application Essay" published by the College Board, says on a second visit, the student has moved from the supplicant role to someone with up to $200,000 to spend. And it's time to ask seriously: Is this where I want to spend my money?
All schools have libraries, student centers, and study-abroad programs, but it often comes down to a feeling of whether the campus is somewhere the students can make friends. "It translates into something quite unquantifiable," she says. "In the end, it's an emotional decision, not a logical one."
If on the first visit, it was a bad day because it was raining or there were no students around in the summer, it might be worth another trip, says Tom Delahunt, vice president for admission and student financial planning at Drake University in Des Moines. "You have to live someplace for four years, you need to see the community," he says.
Yet it can add to the angst to do too much revisiting. Don't go back just to have another tour. In the end, it's likely that your final choices are similar and it just comes down to fit. "It's OK to make a decision based on instincts," says Delahunt. "There are so many schools and there is more than one school for every student."
Most colleges offer official accepted-student days in April. These are good chances to talk to lots of people on campuses in a short amount of time, says Poznanski. It also might be the best option during this month because she finds colleges are not as open to individual visits as they used to be. Delahunt says schools are expected to have open houses for newly accepted students, but Drake is trying to create a feeling of a small university, and that can be hard when so many families visit at once.
In any case, counselors encourage students to stay overnight on a revisit to get the best feel for living on a campus. (Parents can stay in a nearby hotel.) Find out what it feels like to sleep in a dorm and where the kids go late night for munchies. Go to a couple of classes. At the end of the visit, ask yourself: Can I see myself being happy and successful here?