College visits cost time and money, so investing time into planning your visit is key to making the most of your time on the road.
Do Your Homework
Likely, you are limited on the number of schools you can visit, so take the time to make wise choices of where you’ll go. Next, thoroughly research the school online before you go. Sites like College Navigator and CollegeBoard will give you important information such as retention and graduation rates along with average net price paid to attend and degrees offered. You also don’t want to ask a question on your visit that could have been easily answered on the school site.
Schedule AHEAD When College is in Session
You want to visit when college is in session on a normal day, not their spring fling week with lots of extra activities. We recommend you complete any visits by May 1st each year; learn why here.
Tours and classroom visits must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance of your visit. During busy times like spring break or 3-day weekends, the limited number of tour slots can fill more than a month ahead of time. PLAN EARLY!
Book not only your official tour (usually done online) but also check into the availability of sitting in on a class related to major of interest and see if they have a specific informational session on that major. If you can grab some time with a professor before or after class, get a feel for him or her, the department and whether it’s a good 4-year fit for you.
Take the Tour (and TALK!)
When you are on the official tour, ask questions of your tour guide and other students you meet along the way. Find out what brought them to the school initially and their likes and disappointments along their journey. I always ask where else they had applied.
Get off the Beaten Path
When your tour concludes, break away from the group to see more of the campus such as the older buildings, not just the new shiny ones they show you on the tour. Check out the library. You’re a workout fanatic? Head on over to the workout facility to see what it has to offer.
Eat (and maybe Sleep)
Whether you spend half or the recommended full day on your visit, be sure to eat on campus. The quality of the food could be the tie-breaker between school A and B in your senior year. Schools will often allow students, particularly seniors, to spend the night on campus giving you a deeper look at what this college holds for you.
Shortly after your visit concludes, gather your thoughts and impressions about the school. You will be surprised how quickly your memories will fade after the visit, especially after hitting a few more campuses. Journal or create a spreadsheet to rank the school.
Doing an official visit on record with the admissions office is a great way to “demonstrate interest” which can be a deal-breaker when it comes to your application decision. Keep in mind, in the senior year you may still have additional visits before making final decisions.
Make the most of your college visits so you are equipped to make the best decisions in the future!