Whether you are applying to nursing school for the first time, going back to earn your BSN to meet your organization’s requirements, or pursing a long-held dream for your MSN or beyond, knowing which college is your best match is tricky.
If some of the colleges you are considering are far away from your home base, it’s especially challenging to know if the school is a good fit for you. But there are lots of ways you can narrow down your choices, even of schools that are a couple of states away. It just takes some planning.
Here are some tips for making every minute count on a long-distance college tour.
Pick the Right Time
When you are scheduling a long-distance college tour, choose your days carefully. Check with the school to make sure they are having tours when you want to go and that you can sign up for one. Many colleges and universities have varying schedules and you don’t want to drive eight hours only to find there are no tours scheduled. Remember weekends are convenient for you, but not all schools have tours on weekends or might only have them one or two Saturdays a month.
Plan Your Visits Carefully
If you have a few colleges in mind but they are several hours away, plan to visit them all in one sweep. And it wouldn’t hurt to do some research and add in tours of institutions that are near the top choices you are visiting. Map out your route so you can hit at least two colleges in one day, if at all possible. By doing this you can have a fresh impression of schools, can compare them, and won’t waste days of trips for visiting.
If you have to fly to visit, investigate flight schedules, how far the airport is from campus, and plan to visit several schools in the area. Even if the schools aren’t on your list, it helps to have an idea of what other schools offer.
Call admissions to see if you can meet with a faculty member in your area of interest and have a list of great questions prepared. See if you can sit in on a class and even get a copy of a syllabus or two. Eat in the cafeteria. Check out all the facilities on campus from the lab space to the gym to the library. If you have come all that distance, you want to get a solid understanding of what that college is all about.
Stay in the Area
If you are considering a school, call ahead to see if you can spend the night on campus. Some schools will let you do that, especially if you have already submitted an application. If that’s not possible, stay nearby, so you get a feel for the area and what life on campus would be like. After all, if you find that you are uncomfortable walking around campus at nighttime, that could change your mind about the school. Find out about attractions that interest you, where you might do clinicals, and the job prospects in the area as well.
Talk to Everyone
This is good advice for any college tour, but be particularly nosy if you are far away from home. Ask your tour guide why they chose the school and where they are from. Find out what it’s like to attend the school when you won’t be heading home very often. Talk to others on your tour to find out what they liked about the school and to see if anyone is from a far distance.
Bring a Friend
If you can do the long-distance loop with a friend, you might gain some valuable information. A friend can give a new perspective, ask different questions, and think of how you would fit into the school.
Trust Your Gut
Virtual tours are incredibly helpful when you just can’t get to a school you have applied to. But if you have the opportunity to get on a campus, it can make your decision that much easier. Trust your instincts. If you find the campus is too large or too small, too urban or too rural, or your department of interest isn’t quite on par with what you had hoped, you can use that gut feeling to make an informed choice.
When you tour colleges far from home, use every minute wisely. You might not go back before you have to make a final decision, so being on campus is an excellent way to figure out if this is the school for you.