College Visits: Make Them Count
A college visit can make or break your college decision, based on what you experience and how you feel while on the campus. As you make a list of the colleges you might want to attend, mark the ones you know you want to visit. Then set a realistic schedule for making those visits.
When to Start Visiting
The timing of your campus visits depend on when you begin the college planning process. If you feel like you're ready during your junior year, that could be a great time to complete your first round of campus visits to get a sense of your options. If you wait to start visiting until your senior year, you may visit only schools where you've already applied or been accepted.
Be sure to know when enrollment deposits are due at each school where you are considering applying, then make sure you can fit in a visit to each before you need to commit.
How to Register
Use college websites to learn more about each visit registration process. Many schools have visit pages that also include visit registration links. Note the available days and times of day that each college allows.
Types of College Visit Opportunities: Group or Individual
A group visit indicates that many students will participate in the visit day or program. You will likely be in a group setting with planned sessions and activities. Group visits typically draw first-time visitors for general preview days, students interested in a particular major/minor field of study, scholarship recipients, admitted students, etc.
A preview day is often intended for students who have never been on that college's campus, and who desire a broad overview of the college. Things like a campus tour, an academic information session, and a student activities/organizations fair might be offered. This would make a good first visit.
Individual visits allow unique itineraries for each student. The available opportunities will vary among colleges, but this could be a great chance for you to take a deeper dive into your areas of interest. Listed below are things colleges might offer as part of an individual visit.
- Go on a campus tour
- Meet with a faculty member to discuss specific majors, minors, or career goals
- Attend a class to get a feel for class size, teaching models, and classroom spaces
- Schedule an interview or informational session with an admissions representative
- Meet with a coach or a music ensemble director
- Eat in the dining hall(s): it's important to know what kind of food is offered, especially if you have dietary restrictions
- Stay overnight in a residence hall: if this is an option, it might only be available to high school seniors
Other Things to Learn During a Campus Visit
- Is the campus handicap accessible? This might be something that is necessary for you or your family members.
- Where are classrooms located in relation to residence halls? In case you miss your morning alarm, it's important to know if you will have far to travel to make it to class on time.
- Where is the dining hall? Some campuses have more than one, but it will be good to know where you can grab a meal before and in-between classes.
- What study spaces are available? This could mean the library, but campuses often have other lounges or rooms available. Depending on your work style, it's good to get a sense of what is offered to make sure you can be academically successful.
- Are there places to de-stress and get in a workout? Acclimating to college life and the workload can be stressful at times, and it's important to relieve that stress in positive ways. Check out the gym or fitness center, as well as other places you might relax and unwind.
- How do students get around campus? You might be considering a smaller campus where it's convenient to travel on foot. If it's a larger school, there might be a campus bus system to learn. Otherwise, you might decide to bring your own vehicle. Look into the parking availability and cost, if you are able to have a car. Some schools don't allow first-year students to have a car on campus.
How Many to Visit/Visiting More than Once
While it might not be economically feasible to visit every college on your list, stepping foot on as many campuses as possible will allow you to gain a better understanding about what you really want. If you have different types of schools on your list"”big, small, urban, rural, university, college, geographic diversity"”try to visit a good variety of schools to at least determine the type of campus that is best for you. Once you know the type of environment and community that you want, you may decide to visit some schools for a second time.
Spend Time in the College's Town/Community
While every college has its own campus community, each one is also part of a larger town or city. Whether that surrounding community is one mile away from the college's campus or many miles away, it can impact your experience as a student. As you tour campus, ask students and staff members about the relationship that the college has with the town. Then, make sure you at least take a drive through it. Look for things you might enjoy, like coffee shops, music venues, movie theatres, and hiking/biking trails.
There are many factors that contribute to making a final college decision. The campus visit might just be the most important one!