This is such a great question! If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit schools ahead (and many of our members aren’t able, or choose not to), you should prepare well ahead.
School tours are not as common as in the states, but some things to look for via a school/program’s website are “open” days, or “experience” days. If you don’t see that info directly, email the school’s int’l student office or int’l recruitment office, or even the head of the department you’re interested in, for a meeting. If you’re finding it difficult to get this information, and/or you’re not hearing back from the school with your query, this may be a red flag.
Time of year is critical when considering a school visit to a school, and that is true for virtual visits as well. For instance, you’ll have very little luck during the summer since schools in Europe more-or-less shut down, and their staff are on holiday. (We often say that Thanksgiving is an ideal time to visit, since US students have days off, but schools are in session in Europe, and travel to/from is typically reasonable. )
There are virtual options for getting to know a school as well, like virtual experience days, and many schools have virtual opportunities to meet a student. Even if they don’t have this set up, you can always inquire. As well, we encourage you to look at YouTube for school/student videos and Facebook in order to make connections with the school/program community there, as other ways to get to know a school and community.
Once you’re either there in-person, or taking advantage of virtual offerings for the school/program, you’ll want to think ahead about your personal quality indicators and what would make for a good, overall educational experience for you. Once you’ve built this list, you should come up with questions you may have for school staff or students, and consider things to look out for, including any red flags. We discuss this topic in great detail in our Mini-Courses, allowing you to determine these indicators, and from there what questions to ask of the school and program before considering and applying.
One more thing to remember is that our member Facebook group is a great resource for connecting with (and meeting) other BTS students and families in the city or at the school you’ll be visiting.