By Judy, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor
Spring heralds the arrival of the campus visit season when colleges welcome students to take a tour and attend an information session. After limiting in-person visits due to the pandemic, many colleges are once again offering tours regularly.
At IvyWise, we encourage students to attend virtual and on-campus tours when possible because the benefits of college tours — whether in-person or via a computer—are plentiful! And it is important that students prioritize this component of the college prep process.
You Can Learn More About Academic Offerings
While some students are interested in very specific programs that may only be offered at a more limited number of schools (art and music conservatories, or business, for instance), most high school students can pursue a broad range of courses at a variety of schools. Virtual tours and online research can help you narrow your focus as you think about the quality of available programs and factors that might be important to you, but there is nothing like visiting a campus in person to figure out your best-fit school. After all, college is more than academics, so you want to find colleges where you will thrive both academically and personally.
You Get a Better Idea of the Surrounding Environment
Try to visit as many colleges as you can to really get a sense of what it is like to attend a large school vs. a small school or a school that is in an urban setting vs. suburban or rural. You might think you know what a school is like if you have explored it online, but students rarely visit schools and think, “This is exactly what I envisioned!”
Often, it is even better, but sometimes the reality is not what you expected. For example, one of my students decided to commit to a small, rural liberal arts school. She had researched online and attended a virtual tour and was excited to think that she had found the perfect school. However, when she visited in person, she felt that the town was just too small for her—something she had not been able to see online.
After a week of college tours, she decided that the small school part still suited her perfectly, but she was much happier on the campuses of schools that were in or close to larger cities. And, of course, the opposite can be true as well.
Large urban campuses offer many exciting opportunities, but the reality for you might be that you feel overwhelmed by the crowds that come with city living. Visit the campus, but also visit the surrounding community so you can figure out what type of setting appeals to you.
You Will Gain Insight Into the Campus Community
It is also important to get a sense of the campus vibe. Take a look around to see flyers for campus events, talk to students, and note how students interact with one another. Is diversity important to you? Look around to make sure that the student body meets your expectations of intellectual engagement and for life outside of the classroom. Ask yourself, is this a school where I can see myself?
Visiting colleges with the idea of fit in mind will help you craft a college list made up of schools where you can pursue the subjects that interest you most and where you can see yourself for your college years.
And having a dream school—one that meets all of your criteria and where you really feel a connection—can guide your search to identify a range of schools with everything you are looking for in a college community.
For more top tips on preparing for college tours, check out our extensive college visits resource in order to make the most out of your campus tours!