College visits are the best way to really get a feel for what life at each particular college will be like. Because high school spring break often happens later than college spring break, visiting colleges during YOUR spring break is a great idea, because the college students will be on campus.
Don’t JUST visit ‘reach’ schools!
- Most reach schools don’t count demonstrated interest (so it won’t help you in the admission process).
- Many reach schools have beautiful, bucolic campuses and you will just end up falling in love!
- It’s more important to take a look at “target” or “likely” colleges to get a feel for whether or not you would be willing to apply and/or be happy there.
Don’t visit during the summer!
- Many campuses are quiet and have a different feel during the summer
- Fewer students on campus = less opportunity to chat with students who attend
Don’t just DRIVE BY
- A “drive-by” visit just tells you what the buildings look like!
- Park the car. Get out. Talk to students. Try to get a feel for whether or not the students there are “your people.”
Before your college tour:
- Register in advance for an information session and tour.
- Research the college online before you visit campus. (Don’t know how? Here’s how!)
- Be prepared with a few specific questions about what YOUR experience would be like – try to focus on academics here, as colleges primarily see themselves as academic institutions.
- Give yourself enough time to park and walk to where you need to be.
When you arrive for your college tour:
- Check in with the admission office when you arrive.
- Sometimes you don’t get to choose your tour guide – but sometimes you do! If you do have a choice, choose the one who is majoring in something in which you have an interest, or choose the one who has been a student there the longest (seniors know all the good info!).
- Ask your tour guide questions about his/her PERSONAL experience at the college, instead of asking questions about statistics that can easily be found on the college’s website. Remember that tour guides are paid to memorize specific statistics, and they are happy to spit those back to you. What’s more valuable is to ask more personal questions and get answers about their own experience.
- In addition to the campus tour and information session, call the academic department in which your student is most interested, and ask if someone from the department can meet with you
- Eat a meal in the campus dining hall
- Tour the dorms and residential facilities, if they are not included in the main campus tour
- Find someone in the quad – someone who is not a tour guide – and chat with them for a few minutes
- Make an appointment to visit the academic advising and career centers to get a feel for how advising works, and to learn what internships and job opportunities the college might be able to help you access.
TAKE NOTES! Keep track of your impressions while you are on each campus.
Here’s a post with a longer video of Evelyn talking about making the most of your college visits. You can also download our tips in the flyer below:
We hope this advice and this webinar is helpful as you prepare your spring break college visits!