5 Things You Need To Know Before a College Visit

Visiting a college campus is a very important part of the college decision process. First thing’s first, it’s important to be enthusiastically on-board and engaged in making the plans to visit campuses. By taking the lead planning college visits yourself, you are setting the tone for your college decision process as a priority.

Visits can range from an informal drive through the campus to attending a campus-based event or, even, staying overnight with a student. The most common visit includes an information session and guided tour of the campus conducted by a student ambassador, lasting about three hours. Most students visit colleges during their junior year and the summer before senior year, but there is not a right or wrong time.

Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for a college visitation.

  1. Make a plan

Like most aspects of the college process, you’ll get more out of a college visit if you plan ahead. It pays to research a college in advance. By making a timeline and signing-up as early as possible for the information session and tour, you will feel calmer and more prepared. During prime visiting times, the tours and sessions can fill up quickly. Most logistics for information sessions and tours can be found on the school’s website. To make a special arrangement (meeting a professor or coach, attending a class, visiting a specific department etc.) you should call in advance.

2. Visit local schools first

Try visiting a school nearby to get accustomed to the college tour process before trekking across the country on an expensive college tour. This also helps you better measure differences and make comparisons between colleges. Additionally, you may know more students at a local campus. Contact friends that attend and make time for an impromptu campus visit to meet other students. This way, you’ll save money and have a better idea of what schools you might want to travel to next.

3. Ask questions and take great notes

Every college has a lot to offer, but after a few campus visits, they all seem to blur together. Prepare a list of questions to ask at each visit based on the criteria of your ideal college. While on tour, take notes, and even pictures. More information and answers to specific questions you find important will give you more points of comparison between colleges, and ultimately help when making a final decision.

4. Visit while school is in session

It is preferable to visit the school while the students are there. Visiting in the summer shows the buildings, but not the student body and social environment. While visiting, engage students – they love to talk about their process for choosing the college. This can give you a view of the college from a student’s perspective and be very insightful.

5. Breakaway from the tour

Remember, the info session and guided tour are carefully scripted marketing sessions intended to sell the school to students. Dig a little deeper to get the most authentic experience. For example, walk around independently, eat in the cafeterias, visit the student union and roam around areas of campus that weren’t featured on the tour.

For many students, visiting college campuses is a real signal that their life is about to change. Hopefully you can see yourself on the campus, interacting with the people you are meeting as future peers. The feeling you get from the time you open the car door to the time you leave is an important part of the selection process. Being prepared limits your concerns and allows you to take in the experience for what it truly is.