Visiting the campus of a school you are thinking of attending can make or break your entire college decision. From my own personal experience, I visited a couple different colleges, and I knew which college was right for me from the moment I set foot on campus. Visits give you a feel for the college and its campus life and help you see if you could picture yourself there for four-plus years. But getting ready to go on any campus visit, whether it’s your first of your 10th, can be a stressful and anxiety-stirring situation. As the day grows closer, you may find yourself with knots in your stomach and questions of “What should I wear?” “What should I say?” or “How should I act?” taking over your thoughts like weeds in a garden. Campus visits are an important part of the college search, but there’s no need to stress out too much. In general, here are some pretty basic guidelines of what to expect on any college tour and how to prepare for it.
What to expect on a scheduled tour
If you’re going on an official tour, the first thing you will do when you get to campus is sign in. When you set up your visit, the admission office will let you know where and when you will be meeting. College visits are typically a group thing, unless you specifically schedule a private tour, which is entirely different. But for the normal group tours, they’ll give you a schedule for the day, a name tag, and a packet of college information and then set you up in a small group of other prospective students there for the visit. You will also be assigned a campus tour guide, who will be with your group the whole time and answer any and all questions you may have about the school. This is a great time to ask questions because, for most colleges, your tour guide will be a current student, so they’ll have endless information to give you about campus life, dorms, professors, etc. It can be awkward walking around with other people you don’t know, but trust me—it’s not as bad as it sounds (and I’m a pretty shy person). If the thought of walking around with strangers makes you nervous, just remember that all those other kids are just as nervous and new to this as you are.
The rest of the campus tour will consist for the most part of literally just walking around campus, checking out all the different buildings, maybe getting to see a classroom or two, and getting to see what some of the dorm rooms look like. Depending on the college and what kind of tour you set up, you may be given the chance to meet with some of the professors, particularly ones in your department of interest. At the end of the tour, they will most likely ask you to fill out some information about your experience and may even have an assembly of sorts with the other tour groups to essentially close out the day.
Related: College Visits: How to Prepare to Take Tours and Explore Campus
How to prepare beforehand
In preparation for your campus visit, you may want to decide what you’re going to wear in advance; don’t wait until the morning of the visit to throw together a sweatshirt and an old pair of jeans. This could be the college you end up attending, so you want to make a good first impression. Dress nice, but not too fancy, and make sure you wear shoes you can do a lot of walking in. Student visitors can wear anything from a nice pair of jeans with a button-up shirt or blouse to a sweater, cardigan, or blazer. Flats are good in terms of shoes, as well as other flat-heeled shoes, like Toms or Sperrys. Of course you can add accessories as you like, but don’t go too heavy with them. In general, think of what you might wear to church or a family gathering.
It is also helpful to research the campus beforehand and have some questions prepared, although you don’t have to. I personally never prepared any questions because I had really done my research on the colleges I was interested in; most of the questions I would have had I had already found answers to, and the campus tour itself answered any other questions I had along the way. But it’s really up to you to decide if you have any questions or if you have a topic that you are interested in learning more about. College pamphlets and the internet can tell you a lot about a campus, but they can't tell you everything.
The most important thing about any college visit is to be yourself, be polite, and be respectful. Don’t stress too much about what to say or if you’re asking too many questions (or not enough). Everyone else on the campus visit is there for the same reason you are—to learn more about college life and to learn more about the campus itself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because, chances are, someone else has the same question too; it may sound cliché, but there are no stupid questions. All of the college staff and students helping to lead the tour want to help you, and they’ll be more than happy to answer any of your questions, no matter how big or small they might seem.
Related: The Essential List of Campus Visit Questions
Campus visits can be a fun and exciting experience, and they can be really helpful as you get into the nitty-gritty of the inevitable college search. Your tour should give you a lot of insight into what college life will be like for you on that campus and can help you decide if the college you are visiting is the right school for you. Remember to trust your instincts; if it feels like the right campus, it probably is. Just be yourself, ask questions, and have an open mind, and your campus visit can become a very helpful and memorable part of your college search. Who knows? Maybe you’ll stumble across the college of your dreams, and if not, then you’re still one step closer to finding it.
Are you looking for more campus visit tips? We have a whole Campus Visit section to find them!