About College Campus Winter Break Visits
College-bound high school students still sifting through their choices of colleges and universities may find that this time of the year can be an excellent one for visiting select campuses. The gap between fall and spring academic semesters represents a four- to six-week winter break and you will be off from school yourself between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Although many schools will be shut down on Christmas and New Year’s Day, the campus should be open on the other days between the two holidays. Indeed, some colleges hold classes in late December and early January, offering special winter session courses to students. For instance, Montclair State University starts its winter session on December 21 and runs it through January 18. Therefore the campus will be open and you should be able to sit in on some classes while visiting there.
The following should be kept in mind if you plan to make a winter campus visit:
1. Call ahead. Never assume that your college will be fully accessible between he holidays. Some of the smaller colleges shut down, with only security teams on hand until after the new year. You may be able to roam the campus, but you will have no chance to enter locked buildings.
2. Plan carefully. Once you confirm that the college is open and is welcoming your visit — that is, you made contact with the admissions department — you will want to carefully plan your visit. If a formal campus tour is available, then sign up. If certain academic buildings are open at only certain times, plan accordingly. Have a backup plan ready just in case the weather conditions delay your arrival.
3. Ask for food. Your admissions office should be open and some colleges offer a complimentary meal ticket to allow you to sample campus fare. Take advantage of this offer to find out what food options are available. Watch how students order and eat — is the environment relaxed or is it akin to fast food on-the-run dining?
4. Visit college offices. Stop in at admissions, bursar and registrar while you are on campus. Introduce yourself. Explain why you are there. Find out what classes you can sit in on and learn if a college dean or advisor is available to see you. Ask about financial aid, the admissions and decision process. Use this time to get answers to the questions you are sure to have about the college.
5. Roam the campus. If a building on campus is open, go inside. Walk the halls, read the bulletin boards, stop in labs and check out the library. Visit the media center, the student center, athletic facilities and other buildings. If you have a major in mind, find that academic building. Visit dorms and other residential living facilities.
6. Ask questions. As you make your way around campus, speak with other students. Ask them about the school including their likes and dislikes. Speak to faculty members, the maintenance and kitchen staff. Get a feel for how people look at the school from their own perspectives.
7. Take your time. You are on break, so what’s the rush? If possible, plan to spend a few days in the area of the college to get a feel for the local environment. Visit stores, take in entertainment, go to a museum, familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Imagine yourself back there one year later as a student.
Your on-campus visit during winter breaks can reveal much to you. It can also help you narrow down your choices in schools and may confirm that your early action application was the right choice for you. If your school is closed between the holidays, consider making your visit on Jan. 2, even if you must miss a day or two of your high school classes. Your high school guidance counselor should be advised of your plans and offer a written excuse to allow for your campus visit on school time.
See Also — Summer Campus Visits Can Reveal Much