• Visiting colleges is the best way of getting to know a school and developing a really good college list.
• “Gut feelings” are important to pay attention to when you visit a campus.
• It’s important to make college visits pleasant, fun experiences rather than over-programmed ordeals you must get through.
• The more schools you visit, the easier it will be for you to differentiate among colleges.
• One of the strongest “demonstrations of interest” to an admissions committee is that you have visited their school.
• It’s better to visit a college when school is in session, not during vacation or exam times. However, visiting a college anytime for any length of time is better than not visiting at all.
• A useful amount of time to spend on a campus is 1/2 day; the ideal time is a weekday, plus a weekend day and night.
• Potential elements of a college visit include:
✔ Taking a campus tour
✔ Stopping by the college admissions office, introducing yourself to the college rep assigned to your school and signing in
✔ Sitting in on classes
✔ Meeting a professor or two
✔ Talking with current students
✔ Checking out extracurricular activities and athletics
✔ Taking a look at the adjacent community or town.
• If you visit a campus when the admissions office is closed, be sure to let them know through an email or personal note that you just visited the campus.
• Talking with current students is one of the best ways of getting a real feel for a campus.
• It’s useful to see various housing arrangements available at a campus.
• One of the best sources of information about any campus is the college newspaper.
• Spending the night in a dorm can be very revealing. But do plan on NOT getting any sleep that night.
• In gaining a true perspective on a particular campus, be aware
✔ The campus tour leader may or may not be representative of the caliber and/or kind of students at a college.
✔ Likewise, the admissions person leading an information session may or may not be representative of the kind of staff and faculty at a college.
Freshman and sophomore Year
9th and 10 grades are a good time to begin stopping by college campuses as you take family vacations and visit different cities in your home state and in the rest of the U.S. If nothing else, take a “windshield tour “ of a school (i.e., drive around a campus in your car). That alone will tell you a lot. Get exposed to a variety of college types in different geographic locations, with large and small student populations, public and private colleges, famous colleges and little known colleges, schools in cities and some in small towns and rural areas. See how you feel while you are in the different environments and note down what you like and don’t.
11th grade is when to get serious about college visits. If possible, take trips for the sole purpose of visiting colleges during vacation periods, on weekends and during the summer after your junior year. Don’t forget to stop by admissions offices and sign in.
Fall semester, senior year is when you will probably visit colleges to have personal interviews with the different admissions offices. See section on Admissions Interviews.
April, spring semester, is when colleges offer Admit Weekends to students who have been accepted to their schools. This is a very good thing to do if you know what college you want to attend or if you are uncertain about your final choice.
College visits is an arena of college admissions in which parents can and should play a big role. You’ve got the car (or can rent one), the checkbook and the best interests of your child at heart. So whenever you can, throughout your child’s high school career take windshield tours of colleges as you visit different locations in your city, state and the country.
As of your child’s junior year, take trips for the sole purpose of visiting colleges. Nothing can better help your child decide that a college is a good place (or not) than seeing a campus first hand.
And if it’s within your financial wherewithal, encourage and help your senior go on interview trips to colleges when he/she is a senior.