Navigating College Admissions
Episode 3 : Visiting Colleges Transcript
00:01 Jack W.
This is navigating college admissions. I'm Jack Wanberg I'm a recent alumni working in college admissions at the University of Chicago And in this show, we're going to walk you through each step of the college admissions process and hopefully answer some of your questions along the way Quadrangles libraries classrooms Oh my, we all have a picture in our minds of what a college campus looks like I sat down with Zach Evans, Deputy director of admissions at U Chicago, to talk about why you should see a college campus for yourself before you apply Well, Zach, thank you so much for joining us I was just wondering off the top of my head I know when you're applying to college, some people say that it is important to visit a college before you apply to it Why is it important to visit a college that you plan to apply?
00:55 Zach E.
To, well, it certainly is important to visit a college, especially if it's at the top of your list. And if you've narrow down your list. But it's not so important that if you don't do it or you aren't able to do it, that you should just take that college off your list. Visiting colleges can be expensive. There's a lot of travel involved. Not everybody has those resources, but if you do have the resources or if you have a college campus nearby, visiting college campuses is such a great way to get. A feel for a campus that you just can't get anywhere else. It allows you to learn about the school, the student life, academics in a way that is great as the Internet is and as great as the things that we offer on our websites. Everything are just being able to step foot can give you that sense of I belong here or I need to keep looking right.
01:45 Jack W.
Yeah, 'cause colleges usually have a lot of information on their websites. They have a lot of pamphlets you can look through, but there are those intangible qualities that you can only get from visiting.
01:56 Zach E.
Yeah, absolutely and. You know the admissions office at any school and the websites we want to do the best we can to represent our universities and to give you the information you need to make our student needs to make an informed college does. Vision, but if you have specific things you're looking for, like super specific things about Community and what not, being able to step foot on campus and meet people, ask questions. Those natural conversations you have, whether it's with a tour guide or an admissions officer, or even a random student you run into on the quad will give you maybe some insight you wouldn't have otherwise. Expected to find right? Expected to find.
02:34 Jack W.
Right, so if I am lucky enough to have the means in the time to travel to a college campus to visit it, what should I expect? What happens on a college visit?
02:46 Zach E.
Right, so when you're thinking about all the different colleges and universities were all different, we all offer different things in terms of academics and student life. You live on campus off campus and we can be just as different in the way that a college visit can be set up or what's offered.
However, what is generally very similar is most colleges are going to offer. 8 or an information session. The information session is led by an admissions officer or maybe a senior students or some combination thereof. And then the tour is almost always going to be offered by a current student, and most of these things are an hour a piece. So you can imagine that most colleges offer a general 2 hour visit where you try to get as much information packed into those two hours as possible. You'll learn about academics, student life, the application process, financial aid, and scholarships. And then you get to to see the campus, and so that's going to be.
03:40 Zach E.
Step one is. And that's not something that should be avoided just because it. This may be the most standard way to visit a college. It's also very efficient to do that at multiple schools, and you'll find if you're visiting a place where like a city, for instance like here in Chicago, where there are multiple colleges, you might be interested in, you might be able to do 2 visits in a day, and because it's. Resource intensive to go travel and visit these schools. It's nice to be efficient with your time and to get a sense of what sorts of different colleges are out there.
04:13 Jack W.
Right, so Speaking of time efficiency, if I find myself on a college campus, what do you think is the most useful thing to take advantage of? If I want to get to know that's cool a little bit.
04:24 Zach E.
Better, right? So the most useful thing, obviously again, step one. Sign up for that or an information session. Don't don't don't discount that, but there are a number of other really quick things that you can do when you visit a college campus to be efficient with your time.
Step one. Ask for directions. One, it's hard to get around college campuses as great as our campus Maps are. As great as our emails are with directions on where to park and everything like that, it can be a struggle, so I will always say to anyone. Please read the things we're sending you because we try to make it so that your visit to campus is. Effortless right, but ask for directions because you're usually going to ask a random student or person on campus and you can get an immediate feel for are the people here nice right? And I think that goes a long way, and I've heard a lot of positive feedback from families who come to visit and just felt welcomed because they spoke to people randomly, or students who. Because they just randomly walked into a dining Hall, for instance, or again talked to students on campus or creepily walked behind a group of students just to hear what they were talking about and getting excited about the fact that they're talking about topics from class or whatnot, and that allows you to get a different feel without having to spend an extra hour and a half on a different. Type of tour or meeting or what have you so that can be a quick. Way to do it and then ask for lunch recommendations if you have time to stay in the neighborhood of the area, don't just stay on campus, you could either eat on campus or ask for a lunch recommendation nearby and sit down. Reflect on your visit, but also you're going to see a little bit more of the community come out if you're able to take advantage of something like that in the neighborhood.
06:09 Jack W.
Right, so you mentioned how all schools have a tour, an information session mostly. What are some of the other kinds of things that schools can offer you while you were on their campus?
06:23 Zach E.
Sure, so. Most schools have a way for students to sit in on classes. Now, again, tours and information sessions are standardized for the most part, but class visits and some of those other things will differ from school to school. So at the University of Chicago, seniors can sit in on classes. We pride ourselves on small discussion based courses. We want to make sure that our classes are. Are focused on our undergraduate students, but we also want students to have the ability to perspective students. That is, to learn about what it's like to sit in a discussion based core curriculum class, for instance. And most colleges want students to have the Topper. Any so how you sign up for those is going to vary school to school.
You might sign up online, you might drop into the admissions office and look at a class list and see what's available for you to try out. But a class visit is just another great way to actually hear from a professor again, maybe meet some more perspective students, but another way to enhance your college visit is definitely by visiting a class.
Now on a more larger scale, since most colleges also have open houses or larger welcome events throughout the year, so at the University of Chicago we have a spring open house, a fall open house, and we do some larger programming over the summer, and most colleges I'm familiar with also offers some bigger event in the fall in the spring.And this allows them these colleges to bring in faculty, staff members from other departments. Maybe study abroad office housing. Kind of, you name it and and you know it allows parents to also get some access to so parents can't usually sit in on your general classes, but you might find that a University brings in a faculty member who's the head of the Political science Department and both parents and students can sit in and enjoy presentation and and it kind of gives the whole family a feel for what that college has to offer. And so open houses are another great way. If you're especially crunched for time in the sense that you can only travel during spring break or a day off of school. A lot of these open houses they try to match up with when most students are out of school.
08:35 Jack W.
So let's talk about demonstrated interest in the college admissions process. Is that something that we do here at the University of Chicago? Is that something that people do elsewhere? What does that even mean?
08:45 Zach E.
Right, so demonstrated interest is basically the idea that a college is tracking. What your engagement with the University so college visits showing up to a school visit. If a representative is at your school checking in at a college fair or signing up for a mailing list and those if his school or college tracks demonstrated interest, they are using that information too. Just to better evaluate your candidacy in the application pool, basically saying the more you engage with us, the more likely we feel that you're excited about us and you might attend if admitted because colleges are evaluated on yields and we need to fill the beds in the dorms. And baby. In short, the University of Chicago does not practice this in the sense that. Being track or points in the admissions process for every time you engage with us or send us an email or anything like that. So in the broad context of our entire conversation, if a school says they don't track demonstrated interest, then your college visit should again, so solely be focused on your learning experience. But that being said, there are colleges out there who track demonstrated interest. Who are. Very open about this as well and you can ask them do you track demonstrated interest and they say yes. And here's how we do it. Or you can ask does it matter if I sign up for XY or Z? And if that's the case? Please take advantage of that where you can and understand that in the admissions process for those schools.
10:04 Jack W.
10:08 Zach E.
If you're not demonstrating interest or not. Visiting campus or going to those school visits and whatnot, then that's not going to be helpful for you in the admissions process. So it. So very school to school, but you'll find that it's something that can be again helpful for you if you know that if you know it ahead of time.
10:29 Jack W.
Yeah, and if they do track it, they do track it and they'll tell you if they don't. They don't. There's no secret.
10:35 Zach E.
Generally no.Most colleges are pretty open because they want to be helpful to students right? And I know again because we don't track it here. We want to be clear to students that you know you don't need to email your admissions officer every week to just to say hello. You don't need to. You know, try to. I don't know come to campus and knock on knock on my door and and say like I'm here. I'm here and I want you to know that I'm here we want we love meeting our students and so if you're coming to visit campus and you want to email, email me if you're from one of my air. Yeah. And you say I'm coming to visit campus. If you're around, I'd love to say hello, I'd love to say hello to Anan. We really do like to meet students and so that's that's great, but it's not something that I'm not going back up to my office and saying, well, I met, you know I met John Smith and now we're going to admit them because I met them and he had a firm handshake.
That's that's not. That's not generally how it works, but but that's another thing. I would also say is if you if the school practices a regional admissions officer program, great ask if you can meet them, but also don't be upset if they're busy or if they're out. We travel a lot. We work from home, especially when we're reading application. And so trust that we've put a lot of work into our visitor experience. U Chicago. We have about 60,000 visitors per year and that's there. All of our programs, and generally when we get feedback, it's usually very positive. So I think we're doing a good job. And having visited some other colleges too. It's important to us to make a good impression on students and families to be factual and honest about who we are as an institution. So again, if you can't be with the regional admissions officer, or you can't come to campus, know that everything we're putting out there is meant to help you make an informed college choice.
12:36 Jack W.
So if I'm visiting a class, should I visit something that maybe relates to something that I'm thinking about majoring in? Or does that even really matter?
12:47 Zach E.
That's a great question because we do have students who come in. They look at our class list and potentially they've got such. They've got such a focused interest. That that you know they want to do something in computer science and there's not a specific machine learning class offered that day at that time. My advice is to stay open minded no matter what college you go to. You're going to take classes that might get you outside of your comfort zone, so why wait? Find something, especially if you're looking at liberal arts colleges or places with distribution requirements or core curriculum. Sitting in a class that may not be your top interest or what you're going to major in might give you a great feel for OK.
Is this college still going to pull me in? Even if it's not my favorite subject subject area. That being said, if you look at a class list and it has your favorite subject in your favorite time, and you happen to be there and you've heard of that professor sitting on that class like you need to sit in on that class. But, but I would definitely encourage students to keep an open mind. Try out subject area that maybe they wouldn't have otherwise considered.
13:57 Jack W.
So I know that some schools, either before or maybe after you're admitted to them, offer you the chance to stay overnight to maybe stay in a student dorm. What's that all about? Is that something that's...Is super important or is that something that you know I can kind of let go by and not even worry about it too much?
14:24 Zach E.
You know this is what I love about. This question is just the idea of dorms which most colleges have. And there's this perception that the dorm that I'm in will define my entire experience, and I need to have this building or this type of room and.
14:42 Jack W.
Well, that's how it was at Hogwarts, that's.
14:44 Zach E.
Right, that's true, that's that's that's absolutely true. And certainly you Chicago people still think that we use a magic hat for for putting people into our house system. But what I will say is admitted student overnight events or even overnight events before you apply or during the application process. Can be super helpful for getting a feel for campus for getting a sense of what? It's like after after that you know the sun goes down and there's study breaks and events and and all the events that happened on campus. It's not an end all be all. You can certainly choose a college and attend to college if you haven't done an overnight visits. Many people do that, but it's still any one of these things is always. If you can do it, and. What I will say is it's probably more important if you're going to focus your energies, your efforts, or your dollars on flights or what have you to think about visiting the school after you've received your admissions decision. Because schools are selective because you're applying to multiple schools, and because as a senior you've got things going on, we get that. And we know we're adding to the stress, perhaps, but for a good reason.
And if you have the time to, you know, once you've received your admissions decisions, your list has already been called a little bit because you've chosen the schools you're applying to. You've probably gotten into some schools, maybe not into some schools, and so you can really be more a little pickier about where you spend your time and learning about where you want to spend four years. And that's why I admitted student events, which. Are packed full of things. We have events overnights in the fall. They're kind of 1 off events and then we have big events in the spring and the ones in the spring are always going to have more programming, more access to faculty, more access to even admissions officers, or people who are going to help you through those last. The last stretch before you choose where you're actually going to be tricky late.
16:47 Jack W.
In reference to choosing a class to visit, you mentioned keeping an open mind and I want to think about that just a little bit more generally, when we're talking about schools and visiting a school. When I'm planning to visit a school, how much research should I do before I visit a school and how much should I let that visit kind of form my experiences? How open should my mind be?
17:13 Zach E.
Right so. You definitely need to do some research before you visit a school, in that you should know that we have some of the majors your interest. Then there's another, maybe not huge misconception, but there's an idea that some all these different schools offer the same things or offer similar enough things, and you'll be surprised. And I talked to students who are often surprised to find that we don't have a specific major that another school that might be a peer institution might have. So that sort of research, that kind of general high level fit factor of the type of school you're looking for, the programs that are offered, yes, do that research, because then you'll be able to prepare some more thoughtful questions because if your first question when you visit a college campus is what majors do you have? You're missing out on an opportunity to dive deeper into what a college visit can really offer you. You want to get bang for your Buck, and that means that the things that are easy to find, the things that the websites have. That's the easy knowledge to grab. So get that low hanging fruit first, because you're basically climbing to the top of the tree when you visit a college campus. And that's where you're going to get that real deep look at. Keep the metaphor going. Just how that Apple tastes, yeah, apologies for that but.
But yeah, I I. Definitely again, doing some research helps you develop those questions, but but also let the University do some work too. It's our job when you come to visit to tell you who we are, what we're all about, why we might be a great place for you, but at the end of the day, the decision is always going to be the students in terms of whether or not this makes sense. I always tell students when they come to visit. You may not remember every bit of information you get here, but hope. So you'll you'll know how you feel, right? And so take that feeling. And if it's a good feeling, keep doing research. Keep learning about us and maybe keep us on your college.
19:03 Jack W.
List right, so what's the best way to keep track of how you're feeling? 'cause maybe someone's visiting a lot of different colleges at the same time or in a short period of time. What's the best way to reflect on a college? On a college visit experience and to kind of keep those experiences separate in your mind. Absolutely organization.
19:23 Zach E.
It's tough, it's key, it's it's huge when you think about all the things that go into making college decisions in terms of deadlines, all the application requirements. But in terms of college visits, and I know students have done this, a college visit Journal, and especially, here's a couple of real good reasons why. One we all start running together. You visit 2 colleges a day for a week on spring break when mom and dad or whoever you're with is taking you on that college road trip. We're specially if you're considering similar colleges is unique and wonderful and great as we all are, we all have small class sizes and we've all got you know XY or Z thing and and again they run together so reflecting immediately again. At that lunch you're with whoever you're traveling with, whether it's a friend or family member of your parents. And you can talk talk it out. What did you like? What didn't you like? Think through it and again, be thoughtful about all the specific things you learned and then write some things down.
Yeah, because the second part of this is that a lot of colleges later on on their application ask why? Why are you interested in? School, and when students say well, is it important for me to visit your college and I think, well, one yes. We've talked about this already. You can figure out whether or not this makes sense for you, but to? When we ask you why you want to attend later, it's going to be a lot easier for you to respond to that question. If you've been thoughtful about it. If you've written down what your immediate reactions were. And and why you got excited about?
20:52 Jack W.
Yeah, when when I was applying to colleges and visiting colleges, one pneumatic device that I used to keep them separate in my head was just to remember the different kinds of doors that they had on the main quad and just making a note of like the ornateness and just the general quality and not for nothing. You Chicago does have the best doors so yeah.
21:14 Zach E.
We have some great doors here. When I I'm in a lump, my wife is an alumni. We got married on campus and our photographer insisted on many pictures in front of doors and gates and archways. So you'll find no shortage of those that you Chicago, but certainly there are some great college campuses out there where photo OPS are that's.
21:33 Jack W.
There are some amazing yeah. Are some amazing, yeah?
21:36 Zach E.
That's what you should be in any season too, right? People are thinking, oh, that's another piece of advice out there. Don't be afraid to visit any season of the year because campuses are beautiful in the snow. They're beautiful when they bloom. When the leaves fall. And of course when everything is nice and green, right?
21:51 Jack W.
I've heard that the best time to visit a college campus, though, is when students are on campus, so you can kind of hopefully hear about the college experience from a student who goes there. If I wanted to get in touch with. Current student during my college visit. How do I do that?
22:19 Zach E.
So college is also we're going to differ on this front. Generally when you're on campus, getting in touch with the student is again as easy as your tour guides. A student, their students walking around campus that you can. You can check in with, or ask questions of and before or after your visit. Colleges will also have different ways to engage and so for instance, at U Chicago we have. Ask a student at uchicago.edu our email address word, which is answered by only current students at other colleges, will have similar ways to talk. For students, it's kind of one of those things where we can't just give out contact information for students. That might also vary college to college, but I'd say finding those ways is generally going to be pretty helpful. Is sending your questions, especially if you know it's like an email inbox that's managed by current students of the college.
23:09 Jack W.
Yeah, it's probably best not to mention that in the same sentence where you ask for directions from. Just a random person on campus, yeah? Where am I? Do you like it here?
23:19 Zach E.
That's that, that's a good point. Yeah, try to be more subtle in your conversations of again, yeah, where? How do I? How do I get where I'm going? And who's your favorite professor?
23:29 Jack W.
So if for whatever reason I'm not able to visit a college campus, what is the best way that you think what's the best way for a student to decide if that's the place for them?
23:45 Zach E.
Right, so we talked about this in the beginning where it can be. It may not be feasible for you to visit every college campus you're interested in, which I should also say this. Let's say that the colleges you're applying to are all out of state or all four. Far away, just because you may not be applying to or may not be your top choice that college. That's maybe down the road or only an hours drive. It can be helpful to get step foot on any college campus just to get a sense of what it's like to be in a different community than a high school environment.
And so I do think that's helpful, but if you know that you've got this list of colleges and you can't visit everyone. Visit even your top choice, those online resources.
24:23 Jack W.
24:25 Zach E.
They are still helpful.
24:27 Zach E.
Many colleges not only are able to offer. Information about the school, but video tours. Yeah or video guides. You know things that are on YouTube or all the channels. Vast social media networks that all of our colleges and universities have or meant to engage with students in a way that's not just meant to attract you, but also inform you about who we are and what we do and so. Sign up for all the social media feeds and the updates that these colleges provide because you'll find videos you'll find, interviews you'll find current students talking about their research.
And you'll also get a sense of some of the things that are happening on campus in terms of events, and you get to see campus too. Again, maybe not right up there in person, but a walking tour of campus that might be digital as opposed to in person can still give you some impression of what campuses like and so. No matter what you can visit campus or not websites, those sorts of things they are extensive and if you have trouble navigating them, call us, email us and we'll try to send you some information that might help you become better acquainted with who we are.
25:27 Jack W.
25:30 Speaker 3
25:35 Jack W.
Well, that's great. If you had to distill. Everything we've talked about. Into one piece of advice, a student comes up to you and they say what is the most important thing to keep in mind when I'm visiting a college campus? What would you say?
25:57 Zach E.
Before you visit a college campus, you need to do some self reflection and think about what it is you really want out of your college experience. And I say that because. When you're first doing your college search, it's easy to focus on the school that is top ranked in this major or program, or this part of the country, or this city. I want to be in, but when you again distill it down to what the college experience is, it's academic and it's social. It's it's a whole lot of information, an growth packaged into this four year experience. That you know ends with a diploma, yes, but there's it's a lifetime of opportunity. And so before you go on a college campus, and before you even you sign up for all these different things, think about. Exactly what you want out of your college experience and what you're looking for beyond just the major in the programs. And and learn from that and choose your college visits from that. And think about your list of questions based on that. Because challenge us, let me say that challenge us when you get here and the way to do that is to be thoughtful.
27:11 Jack W.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of navigating college admissions. If you want to continue the college conversation, feel free to email us at college admissions at uchicago.edu or follow us on Twitter at VU Chicago and Instagram at Uchicago admissions. Good luck and happy appin'.