Visiting campus is an important step in making your final decision of which college to attend, but a long list of prospective schools may make visits seem overwhelming. Plus, if you have a ton of schools on your list, the expense of visiting each one in person can add up—both in terms of money and time! So which schools should you visit, and how do you figure that out before you go? Here are three steps you can take to narrow down your college list and make the most of your campus visits.
Before you spend the time and money to go visit a campus, research general facts about that campus. How many students go there? Is it a rural, suburban, or urban campus? What majors and minors are available? Are you interested in any of the clubs listed on their website? Research is the first step to determine if a school is a good fit for you. If you are trying to narrow down a list of many colleges, comparing them based on these characteristics may help you decide which ones to actually visit. If you are unsure of what you want in a college, try to visit a variety of schools/campus types (for example: one rural, one suburban, one urban, etc.) to experience different environments.
Online reviews can be helpful in determining which schools have the best academic programs. If you haven’t yet made a list of colleges you are interested in, using rankings of the best schools for your intended major may give you new options to consider. In addition, there are many online resources that use multiple factors (location, size, academics, etc.) to narrow down which colleges you may be interested in. Eventually, you can use this research to form specific questions about a college to ask if you visit. This is a great way to show interest in a school. These questions can be about a major or minor you are interested in, internship opportunities, study abroad, or something else you are curious about. Just don’t ask questions that can be answered by checking a college’s website.
2. Decide when to visit
Once you have decided which colleges to visit through your research, you should determine if there is a specific time that is best for you to visit. Students are more likely to be on campus during the school year than during the summer, and during the week rather than weekends; visiting while students are on campus will give you a more accurate feel of the campus vibe. If your school has any days off that other schools don’t, this is a perfect time to visit colleges.
Another great time to visit is when the college is holding an open house. This day will have set activities for deciding students and may give you more opportunities to experience the school by attending a class, hearing from a panel of students, eating in the dining hall, and meeting some of your future classmates. There are also opportunities during open houses for parents to attend workshops—for example, on financial aid—and have their questions answered. If you have already been accepted to a college, there are also admitted student days that are similar to open houses. These are extremely beneficial, as they provide you with a glimpse of your future classmates and a typical day at that college.
3. Reach out to students
If you have a friend or acquaintance who goes to a school you are interested in, reaching out to them with questions, particularly on campus life and academic difficulty, can give you a new perspective on a college. If you’re close with that person, you could ask them to give you a tour or introduce you to their friends to see what the students at that school are like.
If you don’t know anyone at a college, some schools have overnights or shadowing opportunities, which can give you an authentic feel of the campus and allow you to get to know a current student. Feel free to ask students around campus how they feel about their school. Tour guides might have scripted answers to some questions, so asking average students what they like or dislike about their school is important in determining if they are happy with their choice.
Planning your campus visits doesn't have to be stressful! By researching the schools ahead of time, deciding when to visit, and reaching out to current students, you can make a plan to visit the colleges you could really see yourself attending in the future. Have fun and safe travels!
Have more questions about campus visits? Check out our special Ask the Experts section!