College Visit and Interview Tips
The college visit is often the most underutilized and overlooked element in the application process. Because of philosophy and scheduling constraints, many colleges will not offer individual interviews; group information sessions are offered instead. Nevertheless, any college or university that will receive your application should be visited before that application is made. Too often, applicants become preoccupied with shaping their application in order to be desirable by the school rather than taking the time to discover if the school is desirable to them.
We strongly encourage students and families to make use of the spring break as well as the summer months so that all prospective campuses are visited by the conclusion of summer break.
Note: If this proves impossible, Gilman does provide three excused absences for campus visits.
An astonishing amount can be learned about a school by actually walking around its campus. Your subjective, emotional response to the people you meet and the grounds you explore will give you valuable information that viewbooks and catalogs simply cannot convey. A student may find he feels at home on several campuses; he may discover a congenial atmosphere at a school he had discounted previously or be disappointed by a school for which he had high hopes. Parents going along on these visits will have similar reactions, but not always the same ones their children have. We admonish students to remember who will (usually) bear the financial responsibility for those four expensive years at college, but parents should remember who will actually be living on the campus for those years.
A student-conducted tour is much better than an aimless walk. Sometimes students prefer to take the tour without parents so that they can get the feel of how it would be on their own. In any case, parents can visit the bookstore or dining room — good spots for assessing the school ambiance — while students are touring.
Students may prefer to do some visiting alone. Many colleges are set up for this and will arrange dorm accommodations and/or interviews. Call the school's admissions office to find out how the particular institution handles visits. Visiting a friend who is attending the college is a good arrangement and so is going with other students who are interested in the campus.
Be sure to contact colleges before you leave. They will provide visiting guides, maps, tour information, and lists of local accommodations.
Plan to visit no more than two or three colleges a day. Do not crowd your schedule, or impressions will tend to blur.
Do try to include schools that are not necessarily among your targeted colleges but which are in the vicinity. For example, if a school you are interested in is in Boston, it makes sense to see one or more of the many other colleges in that city. You might be surprised by what you find.
Eat dinner in the nearest town rather than at your hotel. You'll get a better notion of what's available off-campus.
Don't ask your son his opinion of everything everywhere you go. You will both be sorting things out for some time after you return home. Some students keep journals they share after the entire visiting process is over.
Don't dismiss your parents' impressions. Not only are they probably going to foot the bill, but you may discover they have made observations and have perspectives that round out and complement your own.