You're sure you've found the college that's right for you. You've considered all the crucial decision-making factors, like "guy-to-girl ratio" and "proximity to beach." You can burp the school's 89 majors in reverse alphabetical order. And you know you'll be accepted: Your parents had to rent a storage unit to contain the mailings you've received. Yes, Southwest Madagascar Bible College is all that and a bag of pork rinds.
Not so fast. You're missing out on one of the most important college choice considerations if you haven't made a campus visit.
Perhaps you're saying, "Josh's brain is full of tofu and hamburger condiments. I don't need to visit SMBC to know it's where I want to go. Besides, I've seen the website."
Sorry, but as helpful as websites are, they do have limitations. They won't tell you whether the professors in your prospective major could lecture a hyperactive chihuahua to sleep. They'll forget to mention the campus is wedged between a sewer treatment plant and a chicken farm. And you probably won't hear anything about the campus cuisine. All of this—and much more—can only be discovered by actually setting foot on college ground.
How much more? Glad you asked.
Tour de Campus
Even in this age of virtual campus tours, a formal campus tour during your visit is a must. Aside from the obvious benefits of seeing the entire campus up close and personal, the campus tour is an ideal time to ask questions. And since tour guides are often students, they're usually gushing with knowledge about the school, ready to cater to your every whim.
What I'm saying is, you'll want to come equipped with an arsenal of questions. This is your opportunity to ask a person who treads the campus sidewalks each day those questions you've always been wanting to know, such as: What is the spiritual climate like on campus? What is the rate for long distance calls on school phones? Is there a bowling alley in the basement of the dorm? Why are the garbage dumpsters overflowing with empty Pop Tart boxes? What are this college's main strengths and weaknesses? Are there curfews or dating regulations? Why are there stray monkeys playing in the fountain? The list could go on, but the point is this: Don't be afraid to ask anything!
Try to schedule a campus visit while school is in session. Doing so will let you get a feel for the kinds of students and professors who roam the halls and sidewalks. Plus, you'll get to sit in on a class or two.
Well before you actually take your trip, call the admissions office to secure your spot in a class that interests you. (Okay, scheduling a class isn't the only thing you'll want to plan ahead of time. Calling weeks in advance to arrange meetings, lodging, even meals is mucho importante.)
Once on campus, attempt to obtain a map of the college. This will help you to avoid meandering into the wrong classroom where, for example, you could have the privilege of joining students in a nine-part essay test. Keep in mind, however, that even when you do manage to find the right classroom, you'll probably be jumping into a course at mid-semester. If you don't understand everything that's going on, no big deal.
As a prospective student a few years back, I remember visiting a class with my cousin. My cousin was a youth ministries major at a West Coast school, and I joined him for his New Testament Greek class. Turns out the students had a test to take the first half of class. So for kicks, I took the test and filled in the blanks with such scholarly answers as "Mickey Mouse," and "That's Greek to me."
Somehow, I didn't learn a lot of Greek that day. But through observation, I did learn a thing or two about the format of a college class and the way students and professors interact.
Taste and See