Originally Posted: Oct 11, 2011
Last Updated: Feb 2, 2021
Former Executive Director
Colleges That Change Lives
Try to schedule your college visits when students are on campus, during the spring or fall semester, so you can look and listen to them to imagine if you could see yourself as part of the community. However, try to avoid the very beginning and end of the semester, as well as midterm and finals weeks, because things are more hectic (and students are more stressed) than usual. You certainly could visit during these times, but you want to get a sense of a "normal" day on campus.
If you can spend some time on campus as classes change so you can see the largest number of students making their way around and then have the chance to talk with random students to ask some questions: “Would you come here if you had the chance to do the admission process over?” or “Did the college end up meeting your expectations?” It is hard to approach students you don’t know, but they really do like to talk about their college, so give it a try! You should also pay attention to notices about campus activities, so you can determine how active the campus community is and what kinds of events are taking place. Ask the tour guide questions you wouldn’t be able to find in the viewbook, so you really do make the most of your time while you are there: What kinds of students “fit” with the college? What do students do for fun? How busy is it on weekend, or do most students go home?
Associate Chancellor for Enrollment Management
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden
Most colleges and universities are open year-round for visits and campus tours. But the time of year you visit will impact what you see. When you visit during the school year, some colleges may allow you to sit in actual classes. You may receive a more typical feel for what it’s really going to be like. If you visit when school is not in session (i.e., during a holiday, weekend, school break, or summer), there may be far fewer students around, resulting in fewer activities. A great time to visit is when colleges offer “open houses” or “prospective student visit events.” They will generally have plenty of staff, students, and some faculty for you to speak with.
James G. Nondorf
Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
University of Chicago
There is no absolute best time to visit college campuses; it all depends on your own schedule. The summer before your senior year may present a great opportunity to travel and visit schools. After admission decisions are sent out in the spring, many universities host admitted student days or weekends, which can give you a good taste of student life and help you make your final decision on where to enroll. Before your visit, it’s not a bad idea to peruse a school’s website or review any mail it may have sent you, so you can come prepared with questions about any programs of study or student groups that interest you. Talk to your admission officer, ask your tour guide questions, and engage the current students on campus. A college visit is your time to discover what it might be like to study and live in this new home for the next four years.
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