Picnic table on green lawn with brick buildings behind and sunlight in the trees

10 Things You Should Do on Every College Visit

If you're putting in the effort to visit colleges before applying, make sure you're taking full advantage of it. Here are 10 things to do on campus tours.

Venturing on one college visit after another may seem like a drag now, but campus visits can make all the difference in helping you make the right college choice. So strap on your walking shoes, hit the road, and check these 10 critical campus hotspots off your college visit to-do list.

1. Talk to students

This may be the most important part of your campus visits and an opportunity that too many college-bound students do not take advantage of. If you visit colleges while school is in session, you should make a point to approach a few students—in the cafeteria, at the library, or just while walking around campus—and ask them any questions you have or even just about their general experience at the school. You’ll get much more honest answers than you will from tour guides, and most students will be more than happy to stop and chat for a few minutes.

Related: How to Talk to College Students on Campus Tours

2. Browse the bookstore

If you are the first child in your family to attend college, you should prepare to dissociate yourself from your parents upon entering the bookstore. As soon as mom or dad spies a price tag on a textbook, they may react with surprise, anger, disbelief, tears, or any combination of the above. After they’ve calmed down, reassure them that you already set up accounts on AmazonTextbooks.com, and Half.com, and convince them that your prudence and frugality should earn you one of those nice college hoodies from the bookstore. Just don’t show them the receipt.

3. Visit the office of your academic department chair

If you have any inkling whatsoever about what your major in college might be, you should try to make an appointment to meet briefly with the department chair during your campus visit. The chairperson will be thrilled to meet a potential major, and you’ll get some valuable insight into the courses you’d take, professors you’d study under, and academic opportunities that your school and potential major will offer. Don’t hesitate to schedule several of these visits, especially if you’re unsure about your potential major.

4. Size up the gym and on-campus athletic facilities

Most colleges offer some sort of athletic facilities. In fact, sometimes those facilities are just as good as, if not better than, professional gyms! So if you’re interested in getting into or staying in shape, make sure your college has a state-of-the-art gym. And if you’re into college athletics, the school’s on-campus fields and other facilities are also something you should visit. Also remember that games on campus can be a pretty big draw, and even if you’re not a huge sports fan, they double as a popular social event.

Related: Ways to Make Campus Visits More Fun (Plus, Campus Visit Bingo!)

5. Locate the health center

If you’re lucky, you won’t spend much time in the campus health center. However, should you get sick or injured and are in need of anything from emergency care to DayQuil, it’s always reassuring to know you have access to medical care and technology.

6. Stop by the admission office

While you’re on your campus visit, why not put a face to your application? Make an appointment to meet with an admission counselor so that they can get to know you as more than a list of test scores and activities. This is your chance to show your personality, and you can even use the time to ask any questions you might still have about the school. Just be sure that you’re friendly, polite, and articulate, because a first impression is a lasting one.

7. Survey the classrooms

If you think you can ace college exams without ever going to class, think again. Not only do you need to go to class once in a while to make sure you’re up to speed with what’s going on with tests and homework, but a lot of smaller classes also base some of their grades on participation. Granted, you can miss class once in a while, but don’t forget that attendance is often mandatory. Make sure you like the classroom settings of the colleges you’re visiting. Are the classes big or small? Are classrooms flat or stadium-style? Is the technology adequate, or better yet, very advanced? Will you be a nameless face or someone your teacher will be able to interact with?

Related: Questions to Ask Before, During, and After College Visits

8. Eat at the dining hall

You generally won’t have the time or space to prepare yourself a nice lunch or dinner, so the dining hall will be the simplest and most efficient way to eat on campus. The average college student eats at the cafeteria twice a day; it’s possible you'll go less often, but it’s likely you'll go even more than that, whether for a snack or late-night meal. Check for cleanliness, the variety of quality foods, and accessibility (and, you know, taste!). If the campus is big, it may have multiple dining halls, so make sure you see them all.

9. Drop by the dorms

When you’re not in the classroom or grabbing a bite in the cafeteria, there is a pretty good chance you’ll be in your dorm room. While you’re visiting colleges, ask to see the freshman dorms and upperclassman dorms as well. Freshman dorms will almost always be the least impressive digs on campus, but those double and triple shared rooms are part of the freshman experience! That being said, you want to make sure you’ll be moving on up as you progress in class years. Upperclassmen often have access to suite or apartment-style housing.

10. Hang out on the quad

You can’t make friends holed up in your dorm room. That’s why colleges and universities offer quads and other comparable hangout spots. This could be as simple as a nice lawn to read on or an open area to play football or Frisbee. And rest assured, even urban schools have common campus hangouts! If such an area doesn’t exist—or if it does and there’s nobody there—this might be a college you want to rethink because making friends freshman year could be more difficult. You’ll be surprised how important little things like playing catch with your buddies in between classes will factor into your enjoyment of school.

Related: Ultimate Campus Visit Checklist: Where to Go and Questions to Ask

Campus visits are a great way to get to know a school better before making the big decision to apply—or the even bigger decision to attend. It gives you a feel for what life will really be like living on campus and if that's the kind of atmosphere for you to thrive in.

You can check out the original article at CampusCompare.com or find more advice for school tours in our Campus Visits section. 

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Maya Ingraham

Maya Ingraham

October 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has given me more confidence in my college process. With easy-to-access resources and guidance such as the CX Weekly Roundup, I have been able to find the best colleges for me. Most importantly, there’s a surplus of scholarship opportunities for every student to support their education.

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Bell College Consulting

The college lists on CollegeXpress are indispensable for sussing out creative additions to a student’s list, and the college-specific pages provide terrific commentary and suggestions for related schools. CollegeXpress is among the most trusted sources I use for information for my students.

Anthony Vidal

Anthony Vidal

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress has helped me in a series of different ways when it comes to finding scholarships and learning information about different universities. I actually found my dream university through CollegeXpress and am working on getting there.

Amari Toussaint

Amari Toussaint

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me narrow my school choices down from 10 schools to four and then two. It also gave me information on a school I had never heard about or thought about attending until now, which is the school I will be attending in the fall. I am thankful for CollegeXpress and its helpful tools.

College Matches