Jul 09, 2020
College Visitation: When, Why, and How?

You may feel like you have the burden of visiting colleges to figure out where you will go once your high school journey ends. Well, you’re not alone. Just thinking about the time, the research, and the money involved in the college visitation process gives most high schoolers the shivers. But fear not! Although visiting university after university may seem like a tedious task, we have some tips for you to make the most of this experience. No matter who you are or what you like to do, you’ll soon discover that there is a school out there for you. And we can guarantee that as you explore the nooks and crannies of each school you visit, you’ll learn a great deal about not only colleges, but also yourself.

Is college visitation mandatory?

No, but it is highly recommended! Although websites and books may give you an idea of what a college is like or what courses it offers, nothing matches up to physically visiting that college to get the feel of its student life, classroom environment, and more. This way, you can see the good (and possibly the bad) side of each school with your own eyes. 

What do I need to do before visiting colleges?

Good question! There are a few easy steps which you should take to make your college visitation process as easy and stress-free as possible. 

  1. Choose around seven colleges to visit. As much as you may want to visit every college out there, doing so is neither feasible nor realistic. Research colleges by looking at their websites, and attend college fairs in your high school. Websites such as eCampus Tours, Go See Campus, the College Board’s College Search, and Choices360 are good starters for your research. 
  2. Start planning your trip. You need to figure out how much money you will need for travel and lodging (if you plan to stay in a hotel). Try combining trips or staying with family members or friends to save money. You will also need to set aside at least a few hours to visit each college. Another option is for you to go on several college visitation tours with a group of other students. This website has options for trips which will consist of visiting numerous schools with a professional guide.
  3. Pack and prepare. There are several items which you will want to take with you when you visit colleges, including a camera, a notebook (or phone recorder), a map of the school, an identification card, and a pencil. Whether you are taking a tour or sitting at an interview, make sure to pack professional (yet comfortable) clothes in which you will be able to walk long distances. This means that you should shy away from wearing ripped jeans, shorts, or other informal clothes. Check each college’s website to see if there is a dress code in place for visits or interviews.  

When should I visit colleges? 

Earlier is better than later! Start visiting schools once you enter your sophomore or junior year of high school so that you’re not scrambling to go to all of them when you become a senior. It is best to visit colleges while they are in session so that you can get the feel of what the student life is like. You can meet other students who will give you the inside scoop on college life, classes, and much more. Some colleges even allow you to be a student for a day or two, meaning that you can spend the day in a classroom as if you were a student there. This is a great opportunity for you to listen to a few lectures and gain a better understanding of how classes are run.

Who should I talk to once I arrive at the college?

Well, for starters, make time to go to the admissions office and introduce yourself to the staff there. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions about anything on your mind, from meal plans to class schedules. We also advise that you talk to current students so that you can hear their thoughts on the student life, workload, and courses available. If you have the chance, try talking to a professor of a course that you plan on taking or that interests you. A professor will be able to give you a class syllabus so that you can learn more about what is in store for you if you register for that course. Moreover, speaking with the college’s financial aid advisor will allow you to determine whether the tuition is within your price range and whether financial aid is a possibility for you. 

What questions should I ask once I arrive at the college?

You should try to write a list of questions beforehand to ask the students, professors, admissions officers, and/or tour guide. As a rule of thumb, remember to ask questions with answers that cannot be found in a pamphlet, website, or brochure. To get you started, we have given you a few great questions to consider asking.

Questions for StudentsQuestions for Tour GuidesQuestions for Professors
Do you feel like your education here is preparing you for success once you graduate?What are some of the more common extracurricular activities which you offer?How many students are in each of your classes?
Which classes are you taking, and what is their workload like?What are the dorm rooms like? How large are they and what do they contain?Are you available for tutoring or assistance if your students need it? 
What do you like about this school? Dislike? Do you feel safe at this college?Is everything I need (hygiene products, extra clothes, etc.) available to me on campus? What is the class syllabus? How often are tests administered?
Are the students friendly and accepting of different types of people?What food is offered in the cafeteria? Are there food options that meet my personal needs?

What parts of the college should I make sure to see? 

The staff at the admissions office will be able to give you a campus tour, but keep in mind that you may need to register for the tour ahead of time. You will be able to walk the halls of the campus and learn more about what events are coming up and what makes that college unique in comparison to others. Although the tour will cover all the stellar structures and astonishing features of the campus, you should also take a look at the areas that may not be included in a typical tour, such as dorm rooms, student centers, academic departments, and the cafeteria. If you love to read and know that you will be reading a lot when school starts, make sure to check out the school library. Likewise, if you are a fan of the great outdoors, see what life is like outside the campus. 

Do I have a better chance of being accepted into a college if I visit it?

That is tough to say. However, keep in mind that college visitation will only help, not hurt. By visiting colleges you are letting the admissions officers know that you are interested in their school and its programs. You will have the opportunity to show the admissions officers a side of you that they would not be able to see on an application, so make it count. 

Visiting colleges can prove to be a long and often expensive ordeal, but don’t let that get in your way of exploring each school on your list. Although the process itself may be tedious, in the end you will be grateful that you did not just rely on a brochure or website for information or guidance. If you remember to be confident, ask questions, and plan your time out wisely, you will be able to find a school that is the right fit for you. 

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