Which Colleges Should You Visit in Person? 9 Things to Consider

by
CollegeXpress Student Writer

So you’re thinking about visiting colleges. Depending how far along you are in the process, you might have anywhere from five to 20 schools on your “list.” But, how do you know which ones are worthy of visits and which ones are just kind of there? And what if you don’t even know where to start? These nine tips should help!

1. Research, research, research!

Before begging your parents for plane tickets and money to buy five sweatshirts from your desired colleges, you need to make sure you know a good deal about those schools. You don’t want to spend a lot of time, money, or effort traveling to a college, just to find out they don’t offer your major or—worse—their cafeteria doesn’t serve macaroni and cheese. Study up!

Visit the college’s website for admission statistics (how likely is it that you’ll get in?), campus life insights (would you fit in and be happy there?), and financial information (what’s does their cost and financial aid package look like?). This shouldn’t take very long, but it is highly recommended before you plan campus visits so that you have a good idea of what you’re getting into.

Once you’ve done your college search, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out which schools really fit you—and are worth visiting.

2. Put your colleges first

You might start with a list of colleges you have heard about from friends, famous colleges you’ve just always had on your radar, colleges family members went to, etc. These can all serve as a great jumping-off point for your campus visits. However, make sure to research and visit the colleges you’re most interested in first.

Related: Find colleges that fit you

3. Before you visit your dream school…

An easy first step in deciding which colleges and universities are worth visiting in person is to single out any “I Need to Go There” school. If you have one of these, it will most likely make the college-visit-road-trip list. However! If you’re 1000% certain you’re going to apply to this dream school no matter what, it might be worth saving the visit until after you apply and are (hopefully) accepted.

Save your campus visit time and money for a school you’re on the fence about and actually need to see, you know?

4. Visit your safeties

Way too often safety schools are treated like throwaways, where students don’t give them much thought and apply to them “just in case.” Safety schools are so much more important than that! (Not to mention they’ll probably give you the most financial aid, so there’s that.) You want to make sure you’d be happy to go to your safety schools if need be. And since campus visits are all about helping you figure out where you’ll be happy, you should probably prioritize visiting your safeties.

5. Take a day trip

If you live near any colleges, whether they’re three minutes or three hours away, it can be fun to just take a day trip and knock out a few schools in one go. Even if you don’t think you’ll apply to them all, visiting convenient campuses can still give you a sense of what you want in a college. You can also use what you learn to think about any campuses you just can’t get to. And experiencing the “college-town” feel is a very fun way to get connected with a certain school and picture yourself as a student there.

Related: Can't Afford College Visits? Here Are 8 Ways to Make It Work

6. Don’t overdo it

Of course, just because you can squeeze visiting seven colleges into one weekend road trip doesn’t mean you should. A good college visit should include more than just a drive-by. Tours, information sessions, meeting with current students and faculty, and trying out the dining halls are just a few of the many fun activities you should plan for a college visit. Plus, campus visits should be fun!

7. Mix it up

If you are truly unsure about what you’re looking for in a college, it’s a good idea to visit different types of schools—small and big, public and private, in-state and out-of-state, research-heavy universities and liberal arts colleges, etc.—to get a sense of your options.

8. Plan ahead

Many college tours and info sessions have a capped number of people they take for a given day, and if you don’t register for a spot, you may be unable to participate. And no, planning “ahead” does not mean calling on your way over to the school. To really make the most out of your campus visits, you should set a schedule and plan them out a few months before you go.

9. Think outside of campus

Of course, seeing the college or university is important, but seeing the local area’s attractions, popular restaurants, and shopping areas are also helpful. You don’t want to be cooped up in your dorm for four years because you don’t care for the restaurants or malls around. That would be tragic. Find a college location where all (or most) of your personal needs/wants are met! And you can really only do this by visiting.

It can be hard to decide which colleges to visit in person, but hopefully these tips help! Visiting colleges in person and taking part in tours or information sessions is a great way to get a feel for their vibes and really imagine if you could see yourself living there for four years. Plus, buying cute gear from their bookstore doesn’t hurt.

So, CollegeXpressers: how did you decide which colleges to visit in person? Leave your tips (or your questions for us!) in the comments.

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