11 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Visit

Most college counselors will strongly recommend that you visit the colleges you are considering and they are right to do so. There are many benefits that come with a campus visit that you can’t find in a brochure or on a website. Touring a college is one of the best ways to know if it feels “right” for you. You get a firsthand experience of college, what might be important to you, and the opportunity to meet current students. Here are some tips for how to make the most of your college visit.

Know the Different Ways to Tour Campus

A college visit is essential so you know if a college is for you or not

Stanford University by Don McCullough

Before setting up a college visit, it’s helpful to be familiar with the various ways you can tour a campus in order for you to make an informed decision. Here are three common ways to tour colleges:

  • Campus Tours: These are usually guided walking tours that are led by current students. During the tour, you’ll get to see academic buildings, dining halls, dorm rooms, and recreational facilities. It’s a chance for you to ask questions and envision yourself as a student.
  • Information Sessions: Information sessions are a great way to get detailed information about specific academic programs, admission requirements, financial aid, and campus resources. These sessions are typically led by an admissions officer or staff meeting and there is often time for questions.
  • Overnight Stays: Some colleges offer overnight programs where prospective students can stay in campus dorms with current students. This immersive experience allows you to interact with students and get a feel for the campus atmosphere after hours. This will include feeling how comfortable the bed is, how quiet (or loud) it is at night, how long it takes to walk to dinner, and the bathroom situation.

Benefits of Visiting Colleges

Visiting colleges is a valuable part of the college selection process. Here’s a look at the benefits:

  • Experience campus culture: Walking around the campus allows you to get a sense of the atmosphere and what life as a student would be like.
  • Attend classes and events: Sitting in on a class or attending a campus event provides insight into the academic and extracurricular environment.
  • Meet current students: Talking with current students helps you learn about their experiences and gain a better understanding of the college community.
  • Ask questions: Use the opportunity to ask questions about academics, student life, and other aspects of the college to see if it aligns with your interests and goals.
  • Visualize yourself there: Seeing the campus in person helps you picture yourself as part of the college community, aiding in your decision-making process.

11 Tips To Make the Most of Your Visit

Wondering how you can get the most out of your college tour? Here are 11 tips.

1. Prepare in Advance

Whether you plan to visit one or seven colleges, you will want to be prepared. Research the college in advance, look at a campus map, and pick out some things that interest you. Call the admissions office, set up a guided tour, and ask about the best times of year to visit.

This is also the time to see if they can schedule everything you want to do while on campus, which might include meeting with a coach or professor. Going into a college visit prepared will allow you to fully enjoy your time there without worrying that you are missing something.

2. Take a Self-Guided Tour

College visits will look similar at most colleges – a combination of information sessions and a campus tour. Although this information is important, remember that it can be scripted and the places showcased during the tour are the things the college is most proud to show off. Sometimes, parts have to be left out because there just isn’t enough time, and other times it is because it isn’t the best selling point.

Once you finish the official tour, take some time to explore the campus on your own. If something was missing on the campus tour that you’re curious about seeing, go check it out. Wandering around on your own or with friends is the best way to get a feel for the campus.

3. Check Out the Dining Options

There’s no doubt you’ll eat a lot of dining hall food when you’re in college, so you might be eager to try it on your visit. Depending on the size of the college, some may have multiple dining halls and possible other options like a coffee shop or chain food. If you have special dietary requirements, you can explore the options and possibly talk to someone who works in the dining hall(s) to make sure you will find everything that you need.

4. Explore the Surrounding Community

No matter how amazing the college you attend is, you will need to get off campus once in a while. Is the surrounding town safe? Does it have what you might need? If you’re planning not to have a car on campus, will you be able to walk or find a local bus that can get you to where you need to be? The surrounding community will also be your home for the next four years, so you want to make sure it’s a place you like and feel comfortable.

5. Talk to Current Students

You likely will talk to the student who leads your campus tour, however, they are trained to talk about the college in a positive light. When you are spending time on campus, talk to other students about the college and see what they like or dislike. Current students will be very honest about their experience and are a great resource as you are figuring out if the college is a good fit.

6. Sit In On a Class or Two

If you know what major you are considering, see if you are able to sit in on a class. After all, the most important reason for attending college is academics, so what better time to test drive the classes. If you’re not sure what you’ll study, a general education course is also a good option. Stay behind after class and introduce yourself to the professor and ask a question or two. For example, you could ask the professor what makes major ‘x’ so great at the college.

7. Learn About the Student Community

By reading student publications, you’ll get an idea of what matters most to the campus community. You’ll likely discover aspects that might not have been mentioned in the sales pitch that came from the admissions office. The bulletin boards are another great place to look and see what types of activities, clubs, and events are happening on campus. Pay attention to anything that seems interesting and if it’s something you’d like to attend if you were a student at the college.

8. Come Prepared With Questions

If something is important to you, ask someone about it. College is a huge investment in time and money, so you want to make sure you’re getting everything you want and need. College professors and admissions officers are more than willing to answer your questions; it’s part of their role in attracting capable students to their college. Don’t hesitate to gain clarity on academics, campus life, financial aid, or any other questions you may have.

9. Visit During the Academic Year

To get a true idea of what a campus is like, it is always best to visit a college when class is in session. Many colleges feel alive when the students are there, giving you a realistic sense of the campus atmosphere and culture.

Not to mention, you’ll be able to see what the weather is like and understand how it may impact your daily life as a student. While many locations have great weather during the summer, you also have to consider the winter conditions, especially if you’re considering a college in a colder climate.

10. Take Notes and Photos

The more visits you go on, the more they might start to blend together. Remember to take photos and notes during your visit so that you can look back when you’re trying to make an informed decision about where to apply or attend.

If you bring a parent or friend, you might ask them to take notes or photos for you so you can enjoy your time completely. You definitely don’t want to confuse two different campuses when making a decision about college.

11. Relax and Have Fun

There is no pressure when you visit a college. Remember to relax, observe, and have fun. If this is going to be your “home” for the next four years, you want to make sure you actually enjoy it. It’s important to find not just a quality education but also an environment where you can grow academically, personally, and socially.

Pay Close Attention to Campus Essentials

Remember that what makes up the campus can greatly impact your college experiences. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when touring a college campus:

  • Campus Facilities: Take note of the libraries, laboratories, and recreational areas available to students to ensure they meet your academic and extracurricular needs.
  • Dorms: Check out dormitories to see where you’d live, what’s nearby, and what facilities are available. Ask about off-campus housing options if you need them.
  • Academic Programs: Schedule meetings with professors or academic advisors in your intended major to discuss curriculum, research opportunities, and faculty-student interactions.

The college visit is very important during your search and decision-making process. Don’t limit yourself to just the official tour; take advantage of your time on campus to truly experience life as a college student. The firsthand experience is the best way to determine if the college is the right fit for you.

When you’re checking out colleges, think about factors like location, cost, and how well the college matches your academic and personal goals. You can use tools like College Raptor’s FREE College Match, which can help simplify the process by matching you with colleges that fit your budget and preferences.

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