How to Evaluate Campus Life during a College Visit

When you visit a college campus — whether to figure out if the university is the right fit for you or to get a better feel for the place you've already committed to after high school graduation — you'll want to gain a sense of what campus life is all about.

Although academics are an important consideration, the campus where you'll live will become your home for much of the year. You need to know about housing, meal plans, and social and cultural activities.

If you are going to commute, you'll want to explore options for on-campus parking, along with ways to stay connected to things going on around campus when you're away from classes.

Here are some questions that can help direct your observations and experiences during a campus visit.

  • Are the dorms spacious or cramped?
  • How are the dorms allocated — by lottery system; by first come, first served; by seniority; by something else? Is housing guaranteed all four years, or could increased enrollment cause overcrowding?
  • What types of food plans are available? Is the food good, passable, or plain lousy?
  • Is this a commuter school? Does the college empty out on weekends? What is parking like? On many campuses, parking can be a nightmare.
  • Do the students look happy or bored?
  • Are there any events occurring on campus, or do you have to leave campus to have a social life?
  • Is there a Greek life? What percent of the student body participates in sororities and fraternities?
  • What clubs and organizations does the college have? Are there religious services available to you?
  • What is the political climate of the campus?
  • Does every student look identical, or is it a diverse campus?
  • Are there parties every night on campus? Do parties start on Thursday night — and last until Monday morning?
  • What are the school's alcohol, drugs, and curfew policies, and how is each policy enforced?

Your college visit can give you clues about what kinds of changes, challenges, and comforts your campus will provide — once you arrive and start living your new role as a college student!