Tips for Planning Successful College Visits

Spring is the time of year when many juniors and their parents start visiting prospective colleges. You can visit schools in session and see authentic college life.

  1. April vacation is prime time for juniors to visit a college. Many colleges host open houses, special information sessions, and extra campus tours during this very busy week.
  2. Contact the college’s Admissions Office well in advance of your intended visit. This will help to ensure that appointments are still available on the date you prefer. Make sure you are not arriving during their exam period as many colleges end their semesters early. 
  3. Book a tour, information session, interview (if offered), class visit, and more. If you know any adults on campus, try to meet with them, especially professors and admissions officials. Visits ideally last a minimum of three to four hours.
  4. Ask questions. College students are very open to offering their opinions and assistance to visiting high school families. Take advantage of their availability, especially tour guides, to ask any questions you have. If you know someone who attends the college, ask if you can stay one night in the dorms. Nothing helps a kid learn more about a campus than an over-night, on campus visit.
  5. Experience the campus. Try to eat in a cafeteria. Walk through the heart of campus and see how students interact. Be attentive to the condition of campus buildings, the upkeep of the campus grounds, and how well equipped you find academic and technology buildings and labs. Always ask to see typical freshmen housing. Most colleges offer quite a range of housing options. Make sure the tour displays both the nicest housing options as well as some of the less desirable options—often reserved for first year students.
  6. Pay close attention to what students talk about. Get a sense of what their priorities are at each college. It’s always impressive to see students who are genuinely excited about certain classes, or professors, or an upcoming internship or semester abroad. Yes, college students all want to have fun, but you’ll be especially impressed by a college whose students clearly know the main reason they are there—getting an education!
  7. Ask students about availability of faculty and academic advisors. All colleges like to boast about close faculty/student interaction and support, but it’s more a fact at some than at others. Also ask about majors. A choice of college is a major decision. Ask about academic support programs. 
  8. Tours often highlight a college’s strengths. Make sure you probe students to also determine some of the college’s weaknesses. Every college has some and you want to make sure they’re ‘acceptable’ weaknesses for you. Do they have programs for your interests-athletic, social, extracurricular, academic, and cultural? What do students do on weekends? Do they have programs to support diverse students?
  9. Make some brief notes about each visit, including things you liked and things you didn’t particularly like. Take business cards from any adult you meet and write a note on the back about something this adult said during your visit about the college. See our note guide. These notes will be helpful a year from now as decision time approaches.
  10. Enjoy this phase of your life. College visits can be fun and memorable. Remember to write thank you notes to anyone key you met on your trip within 72 hours of your return home.

About rjoseph

I am the creator and visionary behind this site. I want to do everything I can to help students consider college as an option, even when they may be the first in their family to go or may not have the funds at hand. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't have the right or the ability to go to college.

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