Originally Posted: Dec 5, 2012
Last Updated: Feb 9, 2021
A lot of college visit advice gives you specific advice for what to look for when you’re on your tours—but what about before? How do you know which schools to visit? How do you know when the right time to go is? Here’s a quick but comprehensive rundown of how to pick your colleges to visit, when is the best time to go, as well as what to do and ask while there. Happy planning!
How to know which colleges to visit
In recent years, a record number of students have been applying to colleges across the country. Added to continuously rising tuition, the competition for acceptance to choice colleges is fierce. It is more critical than ever for students to investigate the “right” colleges and find the ones that best suit their interests, abilities, and financial constraints. This is an important time of year for high school students to visit colleges with their families. They can examine firsthand if a particular college environment meets their criteria on academic, cultural, personal, and social levels. When deciding which colleges to visit...
- Examine yourself as a prospective college student there. What are your academic abilities and strengths? What is the college’s program like in your potential major(s)? Are there student organizations that pertain to your interests? Are there resources you’d use?
- Research college websites. You can learn about curriculum, areas of specialty, activities, and even arrange to attend upcoming events taking place at that school or in your area.
- Consider the campus setting/environment. Do you want a large or small campus? Rural or urban? Energetic or low key? Athletic? What are the criteria that really appeal to you? Make a list of priorities.
- Consider the size of student body. Will a large student body challenge you to excel or will you thrive in a smaller, more intimate environment?
- Financial aid. Most colleges offer an assortment of scholarship packages to many students who show financial need or excellent abilities in academics, athletics, the arts, community service, and other areas.
When to start visiting colleges
Starting the college visitation process as early as 10th grade is essential given the stakes and array of choices. Since admission requirements and deadlines vary a great deal among colleges, getting an early start is a must. Students need to see colleges and prepare early to increase their chances of being competitive at their colleges of choice.
What to do when you visit campus
- Get an overall view of the college through a campus tour and information session.
- Sit in on classes, particularly those in which you may want to major.
- Schedule time to meet with professors (set up appointments ahead of time).
- Talk to current students about the school and campus life. Ask the students if they would attend the same college again.
- Experience eating in the college dining hall.
- Spend time in the student center or other high-traffic areas to help envision yourself as part of the community.
- Take the time to visit key areas of personal interest such as arts centers, musical halls, athletic facilities, school newspapers, clubs, etc.
- Ask: Can you envision yourself living on this campus? Are you comfortable with the “spirit‟ of the campus setting, its size, and its location?
By keeping these points in mind and taking the time to research and prepare for college visits, students and their families will get a more comprehensive idea about the college, whether it's a good “fit” for the student, and if it is, how to pay the tuition. In addition, a student and family can better learn the steps needed to maximize the potential for admission, and more so, the potential to utilize scholarships and other financial aid resources, both through the school and through outside sources or sponsors.
Get planning your college trips now with CollegeXpress using the advice in our Campus Visits section.