This is the time of year when most colleges and universities invite you to some kind of huge visit event (Mason Premiere is today!). These usually offer the advantage of seeing the campus at its best, including the chance to meet with faculty in your area(s) of interest (faculty from every undergraduate program will be available at Mason Premiere!) and a bunch of current students (Mason’s students government and student ambassadors are holding a huge campus party at Mason Premiere!).
On the other hand, these events tend to have at least two big drawbacks. One is that they’re often huge (over 3,000 people registered to attend Mason Premiere!), causing tour sizes to be huge. Even at campuses with small class sizes (Like Mason!) you’ll end up being herded around with a huge group. These also give the schools a chance to show off their very best. The cleaning and maintenance staffs spruce up the campus, parking is dedicated to the visitors, extra signage is put out, special food is prepared…so the event may not give you a bit less of a feel for what the campus is really like than a more traditional visit.
I’ve found the best traditional visits take place on a Monday through Thursday while the college or university is in session. Be sure to ask, if you have the time, if there are opportunties to see classes in session, to shadow a current student, or even to stay overnight if the school is of strong interest. Bear in mind, not all colleges can offer those opportunities . Popularity can have its drawbacks – as Mason’s visitor count has increased steeply, we’ve had to cut back on some of those programs, as the number of class visitors was interfering with the classes!
Many students focus on Friday visits, often having a three day weekend with family, or only visit. I say you should take any chance to visit a school, but keep ni mind that many campuses have a lot less activity Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. At Mason, for instance, (another shameless plug coming), Friday is our largest student internship day, so a number of students will be in D.C. at everything from the National Zoo to the White House, or at one of the 4,000 local technology companies, or one of the thousands of other intership and work opportunities in the area.
Coming soon – some notes on how many visits you should do, and also on what kinds of questions you might want to ask. Be seeing you.
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