The Essential College Visit Guide

As you think about planning some college visits this fall, here’s your essential “do” and “don’t” guide to visiting colleges!  Below is the video of my interview with Dr. Maggie Wray.  You can download the full guide, with checklists and questions to ask when you’re on campus, at the bottom of this post.

DON’T:

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.”

DO:

Before your 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 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.

Download our Campus Visit Packet for lists of questions you should ask when you’re visiting college campuses – questions to ask students, admission and financial aid officers, and professors!
Magellan College Counseling Campus Visit Packet

Here are a few more articles to help you plan your college visits:

College Visits:  What Do We Need to Know?
Video Blog:  College Visit Tips

College visits are the best way to really get a feel for what life at each particular college will be like.  Take advantage of the best resources on campus – the students!  Happy college touring!

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