College tours are good. Open houses are better. However, the best way to truly get a feel for a school is shadowing a student in your major, or sitting in on a few classes. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know this was a common practice at schools until an admissions counselor recommend I try it at their school. Just after I scheduled my first school, I received emails from other schools I was considering, offering the same thing. Every school has a different setup to their program, but it is truly the best way to get a feel for a school. During your visit, you’re acting as if you are an actual student at the school for the day; you’re taking classes, eating in the cafeteria, and meeting real professors and teachers. I have participated in this type of program at all of the schools I’m truly considering attending, and I’ll be sharing everything you need to know and should expect from a day like this.
The first thing you should know is that these types of programs usually take a full day, so you’ll either have to go on a day off or miss a day of school. I did my programs in January and February, so I was able to go during school breaks or when I didn’t have any tests during finals week.
At the first school I visited, the program didn’t involve me following a student, but rather, being more on my own. I arrived at 9am and had a campus tour guide show me where all of my classes would be for the day. I sat in on a French class and two communications classes. It was the first day of class for that semester, which I really enjoyed because I was able to get a glimpse into the entire class, not just what was happening that single day. Because it was the first day, the classes all let out a bit earlier than usual, which was able to give me more time to get from place to place. My second class let out about 20 minutes early, so I went to hang out at the Starbucks while waiting for my next class to start. I introduced myself to all the professors before the class started, and they were all so kind and welcoming. The students were also really nice, as they filled me in on what their overall experiences at the school were like. The professors treated me as if I were just another student in the class, which was great because I could really feel what a typical day might be like should I choose to attend that school. After my 3 classes were over, I received a meal voucher so I could eat in the school’s dining hall. I also enjoyed being able to eat on campus like a regular student, as I felt it truly completed the experience of experiencing a typical day on campus.
The second school I did this program at was a “shadow-a-student” type of day. I was paired up with a current student at the school and followed them along for the day to see what their typical day is.
The third school was supposed to be much like the first school, in the respect that I was essentially on my own for the day and didn’t have another student I was shadowing. However, the school never finished confirming and scheduling the day. They never replied to an email or phone call, which builds onto the poor experience I had when I was having issues with my application portal. In addition, they were attempting to schedule one four-hour lecture that ended at night, which would mean that I would only be able to see the class, not the school as a whole. Seeing that the school is unresponsive and not really concerned with prospective students makes me wonder what my treatment would be like if I attended the school. Although I never got to shadow at this school, I felt that it was important to include this information because it reflects a potential scenario that you could encounter. Usually, a school wants to treat their prospective students well and make them feel welcome, as they know that the admissions department is the first impression that a student will receive of the school as a whole. I was considering this school, even though it was never my top choice, but after the experience I had with their admissions department, I have decided that the school was not the place for me.
I truly feel that this experience is one of the influential parts of making my decision on a school. I enjoyed the tours and the open houses, but I really didn’t feel like I had experienced the full school until I sat in on classes for a day. I would recommend visiting for a tour or event before spending a day, as it is time consuming and you really only want to sit in on schools you’re fully considering. I also recommend visiting again, if you liked your day experience, to attend an accepted student day, so you can meet your potential future peers and get a feel for who you may be taking classes with for the next few years. I will be posting an accepted student checklist soon! Have any more questions about college applications or high school? Feel free to contact me, I’ll be more than willing to help in whatever way I can!
See ya real soon,