Thursday, June 11, 2015

Alternatives to Making Campus Visits

By Sohan Samanta
Student Ambassador, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Campus visits are important because they help you pick up on the aspects of a school that you love and the features that you are not so fond of. However, they are not always an economically viable option. Fortunately, there are other ways to decide whether a university will suit your needs.

The first step is acquainting yourself with a university’s website. Almost everything you would want to know can be found there, from academics and the application process, to tuition and financial aid info. All you have to do is look. The FAQs are a good place to clear doubts, and if your specific questions aren’t answered, you can always email the relevant department.

Most sites provide details on the professors for each department and their academic areas of interest. Contact info should also available, and you may want to email a few professors in your area of interest to learn more about the projects and research opportunities available. Keep in mind that most professors have tight schedules, so it’s a good idea to give them some time to reply before sending reminders. Ask relevant questions and don't jump to teaching assistant or research assistant availabilities; you don't want the professor to get the impression that you are more interested in acquiring financial support than the subject itself.

Speak to current students. They can provide you with accurate information about individual faculty members, research labs, assistantship opportunities and scholarships. If you are interested in getting a better picture of job prospects after graduation, get ahold of an alum. You would be pleasantly surprised by the list of pros and cons that alumni can provide from a professional point of view.

Almost all universities maintain a presence on social networking sites like Facebook. Social media is not only a great source of information, but also a good way to get to know other students, both current and prospective. Spend some time checking out a college’s blogs and its campus newspapers. A lot can be learned from reading what students have to share about their experience at the university and their lives on campus. A number of universities also offer virtual tours of their campuses, so check those out too.

Also keep a look out for university fairs. The schedule of these fairs may not always suit your needs, nor will all the universities that you are interested in come to the same fair at the same time, but they do provide a chance to speak directly with university representatives – probably the same people you would’ve met on a campus visit. These are the experts capable of answering your specific questions. Get their contact information, and if possible leave yours with them. Send them a thank-you within a few days. U.S. institutes keep track of people who express an interest in their university, and this may actually give you a slight edge if you apply.
Sohan Samanta will matriculate in fall 2015 at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he will study electrical engineering as a master’s student. Sohan previously worked for two years as a senior engineer with Larsen & Toubro. He is from West Bengal, India.

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