How to Have a Successful College Visit
College tours have become an important stage in the college admissions process.
And whether your child is planning on doing one or ten, college tours can be the source of both great anticipation and anxiety…for students AND parents.
It just feels like there’s so much to know – and so much to keep track of.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, though.
College visits are important, but they aren’t the only way to learn about a school.
Approach a college visit as an opportunity to explore and have your student crystallize what they are and are not looking for in a school
Proper planning for what you need to do before, during and after these visits will help you to make the most of your visits.
Use this information as a guide.
Preparing for Your College Tour
Sit down with your child (if you haven’t already) and have the discussion of what they think is important for them in a college and what is not.
Parents and their kids can very often be on different wavelengths when it comes to expressing what comprises a “perfect school” and it causes major communication problems.
The obvious non-academic questions are “What school size would be best?” and “Urban vs. suburban vs. rural campus?”
But what about… “Do they have active clubs you want to be involved with?”
Every school will tell you they have over 250 student clubs, but this by no means says anything about how many active clubs there are.
Do a quick Google search to find out whether there is any online activity from any of the clubs your student is interested in.
In addition, see if you can get an email address or the name and contact info of a student in charge.
Drop them a short email before your trip.
One cannot stress enough to everyone going on a tour, that the overwhelming majority of students are more than happy to talk to prospective students about their experiences.
Do not feel afraid to reach out to them!
How to Set Up College Tours
One way to get a good look at the campus and have experts available to answer questions is to set up a tour through the school’s admissions office.
Be sure to visit while school is in session so you get the most realistic impression.
Make sure you find out how long the tour is – some are an hour, others last a half-day or full day.
If any of the visitors who will be with you require special accommodations regarding ramps or elevators, make sure you find out whether you will have access to them during the tour.
Do you wonder what to expect on a college tour?
A lot of it has to do with what you set up in advance. That’s why planning ahead is vital!
Here are some things you can do on a college visit:
- An informational talk about the opportunities available at the school
- A tour of the campus, often led by current students, with Q&A time available
- Attend a class or meet with a professor
- Talk to a financial aid officer or admission offer
- Attend a meeting for a club or sports practice
- Eat at the dining hall
- Spend the night in a dorm
Not every college will have all of these options, but it gives you an idea what you can request.
Take notes during your visit – after a few college tours, you may forget details or struggle to remember what happened at each individual school.
During Your College Visit
Think of your college tour as the Spark Notes for the school: It’s a lot of information, but it’s not the same as reading the book.
And because there will be a lot of information to absorb, and quickly, take notes, writing down anything that can jog your memory later.
Do what your student will be doing every day.
This is where it will be different for every student.
Maybe sit in a class in a department they’re interested in.
Do they like to study in the library or do they like a coffee shop better?
Check out the study spaces on campus.
And also try to find out if there’s a popular place students spend time off campus.
Grab lunch on campus and dinner off campus.
Remember this isn’t just where they’ll be attending school, for many students this is where they will be living for four years, so get a feel for the location and community.
How Honest Are College Tours?
One concern many families have is that they don’t think the college tours are entirely honest.
It’s easy to only show the parts of the campus you care to and gloss over problems.
As a result, it can be a great idea to spend part of your time on campus on your own.
Wander around campus and check out the facilities they didn’t show you.
Go to the library and check out the freshman dorms.
You might also want to look at the buildings that are key to the major your student is focused on.
They may have shown you the fancy business college, but where are classes for psychology or biology?
Don’t be shy about asking current students you run into about their experiences.
Sometimes the students in the official college tour have been hand-picked and trained to be positive about their experiences.
See what other students have to say as well.
How Important Are College Visits for Admissions?
College visits help show a school that you’re really interested in going there.
This “demonstrated interest” can be a key part of admission decisions.
However, don’t drive yourself crazy asking, “How many college visits should I do?”
Visiting a school is not the only way to show demonstrated interest.
Your student can also reach out to professors, connect with current students or alumni, and include school specifics in their essays.
If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of visiting a lot of schools, try to space out the visits or cluster them geographically.
Try planning some college visits for juniors during that year, and others for the senior year.
This can help you get a lot of college visits without having to cram them in.
Relax and Enjoy College Visits
A college visit is often like a first date – they wine and dine you and show you the very best sides of themselves.
While you definitely want to be gathering as much honest information as you can, there’s no reason not to also relax and enjoy the experience.
As you’re looking for schools that will be a good social, geographic, and academic fit for your student, don’t forget to look at financial fit as well.
Do you wonder how to find out which schools will be most generous to families like yours?
Don’t spend hundreds of hours digging for the details yourself.
Instead, let us do it for you – all at once! Our College Insights tool will show you the schools and scholarships that are the best for your student.
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