The Open House is a staple in the college admission season. Most all colleges offer some sort of big event for prospective students, and many students attend several of these programs. Ours is this Sunday, October 18.
What should you expect from an Open House type event? You should expect to find a day that is quite structured, and arranged to allow you to gather as much information and as many impressions in a single brief visit as possible. The spotlight is on academic opportunities, and on the signature and distinctive characteristics of the institution. There will be time for informal exploration, and faculty and students ready to discuss any questions you may have. You will probably also find balloons, snacks, music, and lots of smiling faces.
What should you not expect from an Open House event? Well, by their very nature, these events are not normal. Normal class days, and especially a normal Sunday afternoon, are nothing like the atmosphere you find at a special event like this. We know you hope your day on campus will be as informative and productive as possible, so we engineer it to meet those expectations. This does not mean that the program is not genuine, just that it is not typical. The important thing to keep in mind as you compare the impressions you gather at all the Open House events you might attend is that there is another very important dimension to any college or university- the more routine “day in the life” of the community that may be a bit obscured by all the special preparations that go into the Open House.
Your challenge, then, is to try to get a reading on how well you might fit into the campus community day in and day out, in addition to gathering the information provided by all the Open House activities. If you simply “go with the flow” at Open House, you probably will not get a very good feel for this. You could always return for another visit on a more typical day, but that is not always possible or practical. So, my advice is to make a conscious effort to engage the students and faculty who turn out for the Open House. Ask the extra question; stay behind when the group moves on to ask about their experiences; go sit in the library or the dining hall for 15 or 20 minutes and watch how the students who are not part of the program interact with each other. If you can do these things, the picture you have when Open House is over will be much more complete.