Originally Posted: Sep 4, 2015
Last Updated: Feb 2, 2021
A campus visit can be a pretty casual event, but just because you can waltz onto a school’s grounds unprepared and unannounced doesn’t mean you should. Campus visits deserve time and effort so you can get the most out of them—because after all, how can you expect to really know a school is the right fit if you don’t take the time to get to know it. To make your college tours go as smoothly and productively as possible, try to avoid making these 10 mistakes.
Not planning out your day
With campus visits, planning is everything! First, it’s often best to visit when class is in session, so you can get a feel for what the school is really like, not just a summertime ghost town. You should also make sure you check for any posted times when the general public is allowed to visit or to see if the college is closed for a holiday. Also, if you want to learn more about any programs in particular, get in touch with the school administrators in advance to see if you can plan your tour around their schedule. For example, if you want to join a particular athletic team, call the coaching staff to see when you get best fit in with their schedule for a tour. They can give you great insight to the school as well as information about the sport you want to play. What better way to find out how much the team practices and how much they travel than from the assistant or head coach themselves!
Leaving right away
After your on-campus tour, sit down and get a meal in the cafeteria, browse through their library, or pick up a college newspaper to see what cool stuff is going on at the moment. You should also try to ask a student (or several) what they do on the weekend with friends or what the general campus “vibe” is. Take as much time as you need/can to get to know the campus better.
Not taking notes
Even after a few visits, they all can seem to blur into one. Make sure to take notes while on your tour so you remember cool facts about the school! You can also make note of how you feel about the school (that’s what the tour is about, after all!). Plus, if you schedule a tour with a student ambassador or a coach, they are going to let you in on some insider stuff about the school, like the best coffee in town, quietest place on campus, and best places to go on weekends. You don’t want to forget that stuff!
Not asking questions
Always ask questions. Tour guides want you to participate! Just don’t ask super easy questions you could figure out on your own with a two-second Google search, like “how many students go here.” Take some time to come up with a list of questions you really want to know the answers to. Ask the tour guide for any interesting, little-known facts about the school. For example, they could tell you a little about any study abroad programs the school offers—a great opportunity for meeting new people, engaging in different cultures, and seeing new places.
Skipping exploring the campus yourself
It’s important to see the student commons or student living area is at any university. This is the place where you can stop by, see your friends, and maybe even grab a quick snack before class. It’s like the social center of student life, so be sure to find it and see what’s going on in there.
Not following the school on social media
Go on and follow all the schools you visit on social media. This can open lots of doors and clue you in on special insights. If the school has its own campus news or admission handles, follow them too! They usually are the ones to tweet out great deals at local eateries or discounts at a local music festival. They can also let you know how the school’s teams are doing over the course of the season. Additionally, being present on your schools’ social platforms will help you connect with other students when you choose a school.
Letting others form your opinion
Tour guides are often really driven students who genuinely love their school and want to show and tell you all the great things about it. But remember that they are trying to sell you something; they want you to go there. Their enthusiasm can be infectious, but don’t get carried away with it. You need to make this decision on your own! (That’s why it’s important to stick around after the tour to adventure on your own.) Always ask yourself, “Can I see myself living and loving it here?” If not, it may not be the school for you.
Waiting too long to start
Don’t wait until senior year to start researching and visiting your college options. You can start thinking about the college-related things you like and dislike, like location, majors, and extracurriculars sophomore year, even earlier. Maybe you don’t like the cold, so the University of Alaska is definitely not for you! Maybe you even know what type of academic programs you like, whether it’s science, art, or business related. Then you can start narrowing down universities to ones that have everything your dream school would have.
Bonus mistake: Crossing off schools you can’t visit
Don’t just scratch a school off your list if you can’t make a college tour. Yes, campus visits are important, and you should try to get yourself there. But many universities now have virtual online tours, which can take you around the campus. If you check the college’s website there may even be videos that can help you determine if the school is the right choice for you. And you might be able to get a travel voucher or other help in getting to know the campus better. Just ask the admission office!
Campus visits should be a really fun part of the college search process, and planning ahead will only make them more enjoyable because you’ll be less stressed about how they’re going to go. Avoid these 10 mistakes and start planning your college visits now!
For more advice on planning your college tours, check out our Campus Visits section.