The College Sleepover: Overnight Visits
You remember those childhood sleepovers: a rainbow of sleeping bags (the coolest ones had the latest fad cartoon character on them), lots of eating and laughing, maybe even a silly prank phone call. You may be too mature to call strangers and ask them if their refrigerator's running (all together now: "you better go catch it!"), but you're just the right age for the high school equivalent of a sleepover: the college overnight visit.
Many colleges offer prospective students the chance to spend the night in a dorm room. Some colleges set aside specific weekends (usually in the spring) for prospective students, but many others will work with you to schedule an overnight that fits into your timetable.
If you're already planning a visit during the day, why spend the extra time on an overnight?
"Day visits are pretty much 'canned,'" says George P. Lynes, II, a college admission consultant. "The admission office has set up tours to the best campus spots, the nicest dorm rooms, etc., and the tour guides have been programmed to say all the right things."
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a college showing you its best side. You're not going to show up at a college in your most raggedy clothes and uncombed hair, either. But to get the real scoop on a college, you need to spend some time on campus without a tour guide at your side. And overnight visits are a fun way to get an inside view.
The two best times to plan overnight visits are before applications are due and after you're accepted.
Most students don't have time to spend the night at ten different colleges, so try to wait until you have your list narrowed down. One strategy is to spend a night at the two colleges on your "possible" list that are the most different (for example, the big urban university and the small rural college). That way, you get an idea of what environment appeals to you more.
If you're thinking about applying early decision (ED), an overnight visit is a must (if the college offers them). You're making a commitment to attend your ED college if accepted, so spend as much time as possible on campus to make sure this is your clear first choice.
Looking forward to spring, overnight visits can be helpful in making that final decision between two or more colleges that accepted you. (Just something to keep in mind as you plan your spring schedule.)
First, do some research. Read the college's catalog, Web site, and any other information you have. Think about what you want to do while you're on campus. If you want to sit in on a particular class or meet with a faculty member or coach, make sure to ask the admission office about it when you schedule the trip.
As with all college visits, call the admission office a few weeks (or even months) ahead of time. Ask whether overnight visits are an option. If family members will be traveling with you, make sure to find a place for them to stay (the admission office can help with that, too).
While you're packing for the trip, throw in a notebook and pen, a book, and some homework. You may have some time on your own while your host studies or goes to class. You can use that time to jot down your impressions of the college or get some of your own homework done.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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