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How to Have a Successful Self-Guided Campus Visit

Signing up for an official tour isn't the only way to visit colleges! Use these tips and tricks if you feel like exploring campus on your own schedule.

In the age of the pandemic, it’s been hard for many people to get back into the swing of normal life. Many actions that were once easily accessible have been taken for granted, eliminated, or changed to fit the new pace of society. For many students, the college process has been limited and may seem almost impossible to truly get an understanding of with virtual tours, opportunities, and experiences. With more campuses re-opening and life getting slowly back to normal every day, virtual tours and digital experiences aren’t the only modern and pandemic-friendly way to experience college campuses. If you want to experience what a campus is really like but aren’t quite ready to join a big group tour, self-guided campus visits are a cost-effective, accessible, and safe way to interact with a college in a personal and direct manner. Here’s how taking control of your own visit experience can benefit your college search, plus tips to help you make the most of your time on campus.

Tailor your own experience

Self-guided tours are a great way for students to experience aspects on campus directly that may be removed or glossed over on an official tour led by a student representative. Walking through campus alone with no set schedule for exploration allows for a fuller understanding of the college environment and ambiance. It allows visitors to experience classroom settings, walkability, and a focused major environment at their own pace. Oftentimes on a guided visit or in a virtual setting, the tour encompasses all the big aspects of campus—but a singular tour led by yourself allows you to see exactly what it is that interests you. It also allows you to see more schools in a cost-effective way and interact with as many people as you want. 

Interact on a deeper level

Another great aspect of self-guided college tours is the flexibility and lack of constraints. If the school has campus-led or volunteer activities going on that day, you can join them and have a more informal experience while on your own personal tour alone with no guidance. This can be especially helpful later in the process when you’re trying to make your final college decision. At the beginning of the college process, it’s valuable and almost necessary to attend the school-led information sessions, but as you progress and understand what suits your interests and needs, it’s best to interact with the college at a more personal level.

Related: What Should I Be Looking for During My Campus Visits?

Tour according to your lifestyle

Whether you have time to leisurely walk around campus or only have enough time to drive through, a self-guided tour is accommodating and insightful for both situations. The college process can be costly, timely, and demand a lot of attention, which can be difficult to manage for a lot of people, seeming almost incomprehensible. Adding self-guided tours to your college search process can allow you to see more universities and plan an easy and adaptable encounter.

Final tips for self-guided college tours

While self-guided tours prioritize being able to experience a school in an individualized manner, there are lots of ways to prepare and engage with campus opportunities. Try going into classrooms to experience a class firsthand or visit an academic and admission office to ask questions. To best prepare, be sure to research the campus before visiting, and choose a time that will allow you to experience the whole campus environment. Printing out a campus map beforehand will ensure you know exactly where to go; maps can also found in the admission office if you want to make that your first stop. Finally, visiting the student center is a great way to see active clubs and visualize student participation and interaction outside of academic hours. This is your tour, so take the time to plan and customize it to your interests!

Related: Questions to Ask Before, During, and After College Visits 

The pandemic stopped many facets of our lives, but the college visit experience doesn’t have to be negatively affected anymore. And remember: whether on campus or online, school-organized or self-guided, any type of college tour is a great way to understand what type of school will fit you best.

Find a lot more questions to ask and advice to take with you on your next college tour in our Campus Visits section. 

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About Jordanne Nichols

Jordanne Nichols is a high school student from Chicago with a passion for activism, feminism, and climate change.


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