Visiting universities is a wonderful way not only to decide if a school is right for you, but also to help you explore what general aspects you value most in a university experience. Once on campus, you can talk with admissions counselors, take a guided tour with a current student, and at some universities, meet with a professor in an interesting field, sit in on a class, eat at the dining hall, and even spend a night in the dormitories. Most universities in Florida offer daily tours throughout the week, usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and have occassional extended Saturday sessions for the seriously interested student.
Here are a few recommendations to make the most of your tours:
1) Visit early. Brevard public schools allow juniors and seniors to take 3 days of excused absences per academic year to conduct campus visits. Seeing campuses is the best way to figure out what you value in a college, and can greatly influence what schools you choose to apply to later on.
2) Visit widely and with an open mind. Choose universities to visit that are small and large, public and private, urban and suburban, familiar and unfamiliar, in order to grasp how unique each of the schools are. The perfect school for you is not necessarily the one you’ve heard the most about.
3) Visit during the week. First-time visits are a time to ‘try out’ the school, and seeing the school in full session helps tremendously. Since many universities have reduced class schedules on Fridays, aim to visit Monday through Thursday. Tours are smallest (so that you can get more personal attention) Tuesday through Thursday.
4) Visit leisurely. The typical campus tour + information session lasts 2 to 2.5 hours. Plan to arrive early or stay late so that you can explore the rest of the campus and surrounding neighborhood, eat on-campus or at a local hotspot, and in general, observe the students and surroundings independently, not through the official lens.
5) Visit informed. To make the most of your limited time at the university, when its admissions officers and students at your service, read the university website and online reviews from students like this and from counselors (like mine below!) before you go.
I think that campus tours are so integral to the college selection process that I have embarked on a state-wide campus tour extravaganza! I have pledged to visit each of the following Florida colleges and universities in Spring 2015 so that I can show students firsthand information and pictures of many of the schools they are interested in and so that I can provide more accurate recommendations.
Each of the university profiles below are a direct result of my time on that campus. I don’t make any claim to be unbiased or objective in these profiles, because that you can read on the university’s own website! I may not always regard a university in a positive light. If your opinion differs (or if you find an inaccuracy), let me know.
Campus Tours Spring 2015
Stop #1: New Colllege of Florida (Sarasota, FL)
This honors university is publicly funded so students enjoy low in-state tuition rates, and enrollment is around 1,000 students so individual student engagement is high. Students here see themselves as liberally-inclined and serious scholars, but the small size may feel too insular to some.
Stop #2: University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
Low in-state tuition rates and its central location to Orlando and many other cities attract over 50,000 students to this diverse, lively, and sprawling campus. Faculty teaching experience and academic support may be relatively low since the university is stretched beyond the limits of its capacity.
Stop #3: Stetson University (DeLand, FL)
A small private liberal arts college, Stetson students enjoy small classes, highly regarded business and music programs, special programming for every student’s needs, and a historic campus dating to the 1880s. The tranquil surroundings of DeLand may be stifling to some but a welcome respite from the busy world for many others looking to focus on academics.
Stop #4: Florida Polytechnic University (near Lakeland, FL)
Florida Poly, the newest of Florida’s publicly funded universities, opened to students in 2014. Its emphasis on innovative and hands-on education for forward-thinking technology careers sounds promising, but there will be some growing pains as the young university expands its mission and enrollment rapidly (from 550 this year to 1,200 next year and 5,000 within 10 years). Right now, students are proud to be attending the ‘nerd school’, where the 88% male student body generally prefers all-night video game groups to partying.
Stop #5: Rollins College (Winter Park, FL)
A small private college on the shores of Lake Virginia, Rollins boasts robust student services, small classes, and a central location to the both the charming, upscale Winter Park area and downtown Orlando’s rich cultural events and nightlife. Academics are challenging and faculty interaction is high. Rollins’ safe, beautiful campus attracts a significant number of very wealthy students.
Stop #6: University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
Stop #7: University of North Florida (Jacksonville, FL)
The University of North Florida, situated in a peaceful, lake-filled nature preserve outside Jacksonville, has a compact campus with plenty of spacious on-campus housing options for all incoming students. At 16,000 undergraduates, it is smaller than most Florida public universities but still large and diverse.
Stop #8: Flagler College (St. Augustine, FL)
Stop #9: University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
Stop #10: Eckerd College (St. Petersburg, FL)
Stop #11: University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)
Stop #12: Florida International University (Miami, FL)
Stop #13: Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL)
Stop #14: University of Tampa (Tampa, FL)
Stop #15: Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
Stop #16: Florida A&M University (Tallahassee, FL)
Stop #17: Florida Gulf Coast University (Ft. Myers, FL)
Stop #18: Nova Southeastern University (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Stop #19: University of West Florida (Pensacola, FL)