Carpe Diem on Campus

There’s nothing like an in-person college orientation to help future freshmen narrow down their university choices. We spoke to USC dean of admissions, Timothy Brunold, to find out how students and their parents can take advantage of every opportunity to seize the big day.

How should families prepare for a college visit?
I would hope that any student will have done some research about the institution before arriving on campus, so that any questions for the admissions officer really can be in-depth.

Most of these visits begin with a group information session at the admissions office. What does this involve and why is it important to attend?
These sessions really do present the basics of the institution. They also will talk a bit about the institution’s historical foundations.  They’ll of course always talk about campus life; they’ll talk about different majors and so forth. And then many times some element of these presentations will also include some discussion about admission and perhaps financial aid as well.

What does the guided campus tour normally consist of?
They’re probably between 45 and 90 minutes in length. There’s often going to be some mix of pointing out buildings and public spaces on the campus and then also going inside some of the buildings … [and] talking about campus traditions and campus history. Classroom visits are also a very common interaction that tend to go along with these visits.

Who should prospective students meet with while on campus, and how are these appointments made?
As part of our Meet USC program, if the student knows or at least has a sense of the academic area in which she is interested, we will prearrange some sort of meeting or information session with a representative from that particular student’s school or college or even department of interest. If a student has a particular interest and [a meeting] wasn’t arranged for them, they could certainly ask about that when setting up their visit or they could endeavor to reach out [to college or department representatives] on their own.

If a family meets with an individual professor, what questions should they ask?
I would like to ask a professor what are the sorts of things that you appreciate in students you have in your class? What are the kinds of behaviors you expect from them? Hopefully to get some sort of a discourse about the professor’s pedagogy and the classroom environment.

Should visitors also talk to current undergraduates while on campus?
You’ll never find anyone more honest on a college campus than a current student … I think a very basic and very useful question is “why did you choose to enroll at this institution?” [Campus visitors] are really missing an opportunity if they don’t at least try to interact with someone, because it’s really people that make up colleges and universities.

Should a prospective student bring their high school transcript and resume with them on a college visit?
Not necessarily. Over the years I’ve spoken to many, many students who have not brought anything with them and we’ve had very good conversations and that hasn’t detracted at all.

Should families also visit a university’s financial aid office while on campus?
I think certainly if families are at a point where they need some detailed information or they have a particular set of questions, they can always contact the financial aid office either ahead of time or even the same day.

Paul Rogers, Brand Publishing Writer

College Visit Checklist

  • Research the basics of the institution prior to your visit so that your questions and exploration on the day can be detailed and specific to your ambitions.
  • Arrive early, especially at larger institutions, to allow time to get oriented and fill out any necessary paperwork.
  • Make time to explore the campus on your own, either before or after the formal tour.

  • Interact with and ask questions of current students, both formally (including your campus tour guide) and informally.
  • Request the business cards of individuals with whom you connect on campus in case you have follow-up questions.
  • Pick up the student newspaper, tune in to the campus radio station and look at bulletin boards to get a feel for campus culture.
  • Allow time to visit the surrounding neighborhoods as college life is seldom confined to just the university itself.
  • Write down your impressions of an institution immediately after your visit, particularly if you plan to tour multiple schools.
  • Don’t try to visit more than two colleges in a single day.
  • Listen to your child’s gut instincts about a particular institution. He or she will be the one spending four years there.
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