Smart College Visiting: Checking Out Three Urban Campuses in Two Days

It’s July. School is out. And with a rising junior in the house, we’re taking every chance to visit college campuses (even when on fun trips). For my daughter’s birthday, we planned a big trip to New York City for a few days, including some shopping, museum hopping and taking in “Hamilton” (sorry, this article isn’t about how I got those tickets, but just so you know, sign up for Ticketmaster alerts!) Because she’s interested in attending college in NYC, or in more urban campuses in general, we took the opportunity to check out three different colleges while we were there. How did we do that over a summer weekend? Read on for some pointers.

Do Research Beforehand

My daughter wanted to see three schools in NYC, somehow: New York University, or NYU, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, or FIT. She figured out that out of the three, only NYU offered a tour that would work with our schedule. We booked that tour online well in advance (and we’re glad we did… more on that in a minute). The other two? We thought outside the box.

Get Creative

After doing some shopping around, I booked a hotel literally a block away from FIT. This choice gave us the opportunity to check out school’s environment without doing much on-campus leg work. FIT is only a few blocks from Penn Station, and about as urban as you can get.

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I also enlisted a friend of mine who happened to be a graduate of Pratt who lives in NYC still to give us a tour. Yes, I was lucky here, but with social media, you just may be able to find a friend or alum in your circles who can show you around. At the very least, try calling the school to let them know you really want to see their campus, but you only have a certain amount of time to check it out. Most places will try and help out a dedicated student. Absolutely no traction any other way? Get on Twitter and see what can happen. You just never know.

Trust Your Student’s Gut Instinct

Once we arrived in the city, and we saw the block/campus of FIT, my daughter wasn’t precisely jumping up and down to check out more. She didn’t discount it altogether, but it didn’t draw her in either, and this was a school she’s talked about for a while too. I stressed that she still had time to do some more research on the school, and if she definitely wanted to return to visit it in the future, we could make it happen. In the meantime, though, her attention was pulled more towards Pratt and NYU.

We were seeing “Hamilton” on a Sunday matinee, leaving us only a few daytime hours beforehand. We took advantage of Lyft to get us to the Brooklyn campus quickly, meeting our friend, who took us on a walking tour of the campus, along with finding the Student Services office and some Pratt publications still in racks.

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The most charming part of the campus? The Pratt cats! Pratt has 15 cats that live on campus, and are cared for by the school. As an animal lover, she was charmed by this, as well as the 19th century campus, which felt more like a sculpture garden and park than it did a block in the middle of Brooklyn. We made plans to get her some more information, do a proper tour in the next few months, and still had time for brunch in Clinton Hill before getting a return Lyft.

Continuing to Trust the Gut

We headed downtown for the NYU tour at 10am the next morning, fresh off the “Hamilton” high. We got there early, and we’re glad we did because it was standing room only. Lots of families were obviously taking advantage of the summer vacation time to visit the prestigious campus. The website had said the information session and tour was going to take two hours, but after the hour-long information session, my daughter knew she’d rather get out and explore the campus herself. And that’s exactly what we did. Yes, we admittedly bailed on the student-led tour around campus in favor of doing it ourselves (not that the tour didn’t look fun — to me — but this is her circus, and I am her monkey).

Three Campuses, Three Tours

In the end, in about six hours time total, my daughter got to see three university campuses in person. Did we do it by the book? No. My student is a bit of an independent thinker (which will serve her well if she does end up in NYC), and this method worked for her. It may not work for your student. Overall, trust your student’s inner voice and intuition when setting off on the college visit adventure. Be open to the experiences and get creative if you need to. And above all, stay hydrated, summer visit planners!

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Want to visit these NYC colleges and universities as well? Check out some hotels close by!