Colorful digital art of diverse group of people near direction signs

Top Tips to Help You Decide Which Colleges to Visit in Person

How do you know which of your colleges are worth visiting? And how many colleges should you be touring? These nine tips should help you make decisions!

So you’re thinking about visiting colleges. Depending on how far along you're 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 tips should help!

Do your research thoroughly 

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.

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 do your research like we already said, and from there, visit the colleges you’re most interested in first. There's a reason you're drawn to them, and that's worth looking into more so than colleges that interest anyone else—becaues this is your college journey not anyone else's.

Related: How to Find the Right College Fit

Your dream school doesn't have to be top priority

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 100% 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?

Definitely visit your safety schools

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.

Plan out some day trips

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: 7 Ways to Make Campus Visits More Affordable

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!

Visit a variety of types of schools

If you're 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, technical schools, etc.—to get a sense of your options. You never know what aspects of a college may draw you in if you don't already have an idea of what kind of atmosphere you'd like. The feel and community can drastically shift from one school to another, and that's why campus visits are so important. 

Plan your visits ahead of time

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.

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.

Related: Great Colleges If You Want to Live in the Big City

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.

CollegeXpressers: how did you decide which colleges to visit in person? Let us know by tweeting at us @CollegeXpress

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.

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-a-Friend Scholarship Winner

Toward the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites, but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Casey Kammeyer

Casey Kammeyer

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

I love the site CollegeXpress; it has been very helpful finding colleges and getting them to send me information. It has also been very, very helpful with finding tons of scholarships. Also, I told many of my friends about it and they love it as well!



High School Class of 2021

For a long time, I've been searching everywhere to find the perfect website I can get scholarships and information from. Needless to say, I could never find the right one. That was, until I found CollegeXpress. Through my journey of finding the right scholarships for me, I was able to find articles about different things. They've all been helpful, especially in times like this! I was even able to connect with some of my favorite colleges! I love CollegeXpress. Thank you!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Emerson College

Boston, MA

High Point University

High Point, NC

Belmont University

Nashville, TN

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA