The Ultimate Guide to College Visits

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The college admissions process is challenging and takes time, but it can be a rewarding experience. Perhaps one of the most fun and interesting parts of the process for students is touring colleges they’re interested in attending. College visits allow students to experience campus and talk to school representatives.

Making the most of your time at each school can help you make an informed decision about which college to attend. Whether you’re planning your first college visit or have done this before, you will benefit from some advance preparation. Let’s discuss how to prepare for college visits and what to do when you’re on campus.

Why Should I Visit?  

There are many reasons to participate in college visits, but perhaps the most important reason is that visiting, whether virtually or in-person, can help you get a feel for whether a school is a good fit for you. By seeing the campus and talking to faculty, staff, and students, you get a much better sense of what your college experience will be like. However, the importance of college visits extends beyond the campus. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the town the campus is in and what the surrounding area has to offer.

Receive Personalized Answers  

Your college visit is an opportunity to meet an admissions officer and get your questions answered. Think about what questions to ask ahead of time and write them down. It’s helpful to get the information you need directly from the source—not to mention, asking good questions makes a good impression! Plus, you may get some helpful information that you can’t find on the college’s website.

Customize Your Application Essay 

Making a visit to the campus also helps you when it comes to writing your college essay because you can better discuss how and why you’ll fit in. You can further customize your essay based on what you experienced, who you met, and what you learned during your visit.

Demonstrate Your Interest 

Colleges are looking for students who have a strong knowledge of the institution and are excited about the possibility of attending, so visiting the campus is a good way to demonstrate your interest. It can be helpful for you to register for information sessions and official tours ahead of time so the admissions office has your visit on record.

How Do I Arrange a College Visit? 

Most college visits are organized through the admissions office. You should aim to visit five to six of the colleges on your list so you get a good idea of what you like and dislike about different schools. However, we don’t recommend visiting any more than 10 to 12 schools. Visiting too many can leave you feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

Choose Which Schools to Visit  

It may not be possible to visit every school on your best-fit list, so how do you decide which ones to visit? Time and budget constraints can help you narrow your list, but here are some other factors to consider:

  • Determine what you’re looking for in terms of your college experience. Do you prefer a large or small campus? Do you want to live in an urban or rural setting? If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, visiting campuses in different environments may help you decide.
  • Think about the schools on your list. Are you applying early decision to any of them? Before you commit to attending if you’re admitted, you may want to ensure it’s the right school for you.
  • Consider visiting your safety schools. This can help you get excited about the possibility of attending and make the college admissions process less stressful.
  • Focus on the major you’re interested in pursuing. Which schools on your list are known for having top-notch programs in your area of interest? You may want to prioritize visiting those schools.

Read our tips on how to choose which colleges to apply to.

Contact the Admissions Office

Many college admissions offices allow you to register for visits through the admissions office website. These visits often include a group information session and a tour led by a student guide. These campus tours are typically short and only include the key buildings, so you may need to make other arrangements if you want a more in-depth look at the campus.

You might also consider a virtual campus tour and information session if these are offered. This is a great option when you can’t visit in person. If the visit is online, learn how to make the most of virtual college tours!

Pick a Date and Time 

The earlier you can schedule a college tour, the better. The admissions office typically provides a list of available dates and times, but these often fill up quickly during school breaks. If you are unable to make it for any reason, it’s a good idea to inform the admissions office not to expect you.

How to Get Ready for a College Visit 

College visits require a bit of preparation. After all, you are meeting representatives of the institution, and you will want to put your best foot forward. It helps to make a college visit packing list to ensure you’ll have everything you need to make the most of your visit.

Best Time to Go on a College Tour 

High school juniors who have already put together a list of best-fit schools may want to start visiting colleges during their winter or spring breaks, especially if they plan to apply Early Action or Early Decision. However, these tend to be popular times for college visits, as we already mentioned. Otherwise, late summer before senior year can be a good time, since many colleges start classes in mid-August.

What to Bring with You 

It’s important to come prepared for your campus visits so you can focus on what’s going on instead of worrying about your forgotten phone charger or wishing you wore more comfortable shoes. Ensuring you have these top 6 must-have college visit items will help you feel less stressed so you can make the most of your time.

How to Dress for a College Visit 

What you wear on your campus visit is also important, since you want to make a good impression. If you’re not sure what to wear during a college visit, focus on being comfortable and looking polished. Casual clothing is perfectly fine, but it should look clean and neat. Most importantly, your outfit should make you feel confident!

What to Do on a College Visit 

While the information sessions and student-led tours offered by the admissions office can give you a good overview of the school, you should take advantage of your visit to dig deeper.

Check Out the Academic Departments 

You will likely find it useful to check out the academic departments related to what you want to study. You can ask to meet a professor who teaches undergraduate courses so you can learn more about how the faculty works with students to help them succeed. Some colleges may even allow you to observe a class!

Learn More About Campus Security  

A college tour is also a good time for students and parents to learn more about the security measures that are taken to keep students safe. Some information is online, including annual campus security reports and crime statistics, but take the opportunity to ask questions about safety on campus and in the surrounding area.

Learn more about college campus dorm life.

Visit the Financial Aid Office 

It’s a good idea to stop by the financial aid office at each college you visit. The amount of financial aid you get will vary by school, so this is a chance to speak to a financial aid officer about the different options available and how the college helps students pay for their tuition and other expenses.

Prepare Your Questions 

Students are encouraged to ask questions during a college visit, so don’t be afraid to speak up! However, there are certain questions not to ask on a college tour. Asking the right questions leaves a good impression and provides you with a more nuanced understanding of what to expect at that school.

Take Notes and Pictures  

If you’re visiting several colleges, it’s helpful to document each visit so you don’t get them mixed up later. Take notes, recordings, and photos at each college to help you remember the pros and cons of each one when you narrow down your options. As you’re exploring the campus, keep an eye out for college visit red flags.

Schedule College Visits Now 

Ready to start scheduling college visits? Contact us to learn more about our campus visit planning services, research reports, and other information that helps you prepare for college. You can also schedule an Initial Consultation with an IvyWise counselor who will work with you on a strategy to achieve your academic goals.

Related Topics

College Admission Advice, College Visits

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