Visiting college campus a must-do

Dennis Kelly - Contributing columnist

The campus visit should be an essential part of your decision-making process when selecting a college or university.

Colleges usually offer a blend of visitation programs. These are often determined by an institution’s enrollment, percentage of students visiting from out-of-state and the willingness of the faculty and staff to participate in the visit program.

Institutions might offer individual and group visits, general open houses, major-specific programs or other specialized visit days. Colleges often open on Saturdays to accommodate high school students who participate in athletes, music, theater or other after-school activities that might compromise a weekday visit.

Many colleges also wish to accommodate family members who work during the week by offering Saturday programs. Sunday visits are rare. My rule of thumb is to select the visitation option that best meets your expectations. You may be traveling a great distance and require an overnight stay — it would be a shame if your expectations and questions were not addressed in person.

Visitation is a two-way partnership. Like a restaurant, a College provides a menu of options for you to select those items that suit you best.

The personal visit is my top choice, especially during your junior and senior years. This is a must if you have already applied and received your acceptance letter without visiting the campus. In fact, many elite colleges require students to visit as part of the admission process. Such visits give students important insight into their compatibility with the institution.

Local Clinton County students applying to Wilmington College will meet with a counselor from the Office of Admission whose assignment is specific to their preferred major. Depending on co-curricular interests, your visit may also include a meeting with coaches, music and theater directors, and representatives of other special interest groups.

Wilmington College’s campus tour features such additional options as a visit to the Academic Farm and Equine Center. Also, depending on the time of day, a complimentary lunch in the Student Dining Hall may be offered to prospective students and their accompanying family members.

My top five suggestions when visiting a college campus are:

(1) First, prioritize your most important factors and goals for attending college.

(2) State your expectations to the Admission Office in advance and request the best visitation option that addresses your top priorities in a single visit.

(3) Never visit a college alone. The more family members who experience the visit result in a quality conversation on the ride home.

(4) If the visit is going well and you and your family sense a good fit, then inquire about the next steps in the enrollment process while you are on campus.

(5) Evaluate your campus experience at home using the same appraisal process for each college you visit.

Finally, visit your college-of-choice as much as possible if the time/distance factor is feasible. Ask about attending sporting events, concerts, theater productions and overnight visit programs. Many schools have special opportunities for accepted students that provide for meeting additional faculty and staff, and students who could be your future classmates. Attending the summer orientation program is essential.

If you choose to attend college out-of-state or abroad, I suggest that you plan an extended stay during mandatory orientation programs. Ask if on-campus accommodations are offered for extended stays or check on the availability of local lodging at a special college rate.

Look for future columns as we continue our journey in the college enrollment process.

Dennis M. Kelly is senior vice president for enrollment management at Wilmington College.

Dennis Kelly

Contributing columnist