Of the many variables that go into making that final college decision, the overnight is one with lots of predictive power.
The overnight provides a fairly clear example of what a typical day would look like at College X. It is then up to the student to determine if he/she can envision four years there. It is more real in a sense, as it comes without the script or messaging of the Admissions department.
I would encourage high school students who have the opportunity to do an overnight to take advantage of the option.
Between cross country and the honors program, I have probably hosted eight or so students during my time at Roberts.
When we have a recruit/overnight guest we typically will have him eat dinner with the team, then drop him off with a subset of the team who happens to have a less demanding homework regimen that night. Later in the night, we will do a team activity like pickup basketball or ultimate Frisbee. When I am hosting, I tend to stay up later than usual and talk with him about running, about other schools he is looking at, and about the culture of a Christian college.
Advice to college students hosting- Give a fair portrayal of what a typical night at school is like. Show what life at school IS like, not what life at school IS NOT like.
I remember a recruit that was disappointed that our team does not party, and decided to go somewhere else. While he was a good runner and would have helped our team, he would not be a good fit for the school. Thus it is probably better that he found a different school to go to. (His overnight was successful for him in the sense that it gave him an answer.)
I have also heard of teams who take their recruits out and get them totally wasted. While I do not condone this behavior as it goes against what is taught in Scripture, not to mention it is illegal, it probably gives the student a fair portrayal of what a typical night at that college is like. Then he/she can decide – do I want to be getting sloshed three nights per/week?
Advice to High School students visiting- Try to envision if this could be you on a day-to-day basis. Give it a fair shot, even if it is not top on your list. Be aware of any potential red flags. Get a sense of if you mix well with the students (especially the freshmen and sophomores who you will be with for a few years.)
Also, a boring overnight is not necessarily a bad indicator about the school. The overnight may not have been that fun if the students hosting were diligently doing their homework. However that may be a good indication of the type of students that attend the school – hardworking, take academics seriously, etc.
Choosing a college is an important step so make sure to get all the information that is attainable, and strive to make a well-thought out decision.