Every campus hosts tours for prospective students. Many will do visitation days. These formal events are developed to impress you and most of them will. But you can easily be misled if your only exposure to a campus comes from a recruiting event.
A better way to get a real sense of a university is to spend a day on campus shadowing a student. What you want to do as a part of your shadowing experience is:
- Go to classes
- Get a sense of how learning centers work
- Spend a night in a dorm
- Visit with a professor
- Hang out with students
Here’s how to arrange for a shadowing experience:
- Identify a student you know who is attending the university. It’s best if the student is in a similar major to the one you are interested in. It’s also best if the student is a freshman or sophomore.
- If you don’t know of a current student, contact the major you are interested in and see if you can arrange a shadow experience. If the department won’t help you on this, that should tell you a lot about your decision of where to enroll.
- Make arrangements with the student you will be shadowing. Most faculty will have no problems with you visiting their classes, but the student you will be shadowing should ask.
- Plan your day on campus. For each of the things you will be doing, make a list of what you want to observe (e.g. size of class, quality of the teaching).
- Take notes of your impressions as you experience each of the day’s events. Think of these impressions as notes you want to share with your best friend.
- When you return home, send a thank you note to those you met during your shadowing experience.
- Describe your shadowing experience with your family and friends. Often you will learn a lot you didn’t realize by describing your experience to others. You may even be able to use your experience for credit in one of your high school classes.
When you spend a day on campus like this, you will get a much better sense of what the campus is really like..