When Should You Start Visiting Colleges?

As you start to think about attending college in the coming years, you’re often presented with the question: when to start visiting colleges? While there’s no single “best” time to begin your campus tours, there are a few recommendations depending on where you are in your college search. Below, we highlight why it’s important to start visiting colleges, when you should begin, and what you should do if you can’t visit a school before attending.

When should you start your college visits?

Pixabay user jessie_zy86

Why Should You Visit Colleges?

Much of the information students see about colleges is found online, at their high school through word of mouth, or at college fairs. Schools only let you see what they want you to see. They are, after all, trying to attract students to their campus! They won’t get that by showing poorly landscaped quads, ill-equipped classrooms, or litter.

Visiting colleges on your own, whether through a self-guided tour or a campus tour, allows you to view the school through your own eyes. You will be able to see aspects of the college beyond the marketing materials, ask questions, and explore the factors that are important to you in a school.

Students can also use this opportunity to ask themselves, “Do I see myself here over the next four years”? If you can envision yourself walking to class during your tour, it might be the perfect option for you. However, on the other hand, if you feel disappointed with that vision, you can cross the school off your list.

You want to be sure you will be happy at this school.

When to Start Visiting Colleges

When you start visiting colleges is completely up to you. But there are three recommendations as far as the “best times:”

1. As Soon as Possible

Visiting colleges and universities as soon as possible allows you to visit more campuses in the future! Some highly recommend you start your college tours during sophomore year, junior year at the latest. If you have an older sibling, it’s a good idea to tour with them even if your own college experience is still a few years away. You might find the perfect school for you during one of these visits and you won’t have to make the trip twice.

2. Before You Submit Applications

The second best time to visit campuses is before you submit your applications for the colleges in the summer or fall. By opting to tour a college before applications are due (November for Early Action and Early Decision and January 1st for Regular Decision), you can save time on completing the applications and essay as well as money on application fees. You won’t waste effort on schools you know you won’t be attending after a visit!

3. After You’ve Been Accepted

College visits can get expensive, however, especially if they’re across the country or several states away. It may not be feasible to visit all campuses before you submit your applications due to time, distance, or cost. And if you have a late addition to your college list, you likely won’t be able to squeeze in a tour date before your application needs to be submitted.

If you find yourself in this boat, it may be worth it to visit the campus only after you’ve been accepted and before you need to decide on May 1st. This allows you to save time and money on travel.

However, it’s important to note that if you applied to a college under Early Decision, you won’t be able to back out if you delay your visit and find the college isn’t for you. Early Decision is binding if you’re accepted. So if you’re applying to a college under this application process, you should always be sure it’s the right school for you before November of your senior year.

What if You Can’t Visit a College?

Travel, especially to schools that are far away, can take up time and money. And if you have a lot of potential schools on your list, this can cost a lot! If you can’t visit all of the colleges on your list, you have a few options:

  • Start with visiting your top choices first.
  • Utilize online tours.
  • Talk to students and alumni about their experiences at the school.
  • Only visit colleges after you’ve been accepted and before May 1st.

Keep in mind that not visiting a college before you accept their offer can be costly, too. After you start your first year, you could discover you sincerely dislike it there and have to transfer. Transferring colleges in itself is expensive and time-consuming.

Your college choice will impact where you live and study for the next four years, as well as your career after graduation. It’s important to be sure you have a college that fits your needs and wants for your education as well as your personal preferences. Visiting campuses as soon as possible gives you the opportunity to vet your choices before you commit.

Before you visit colleges, though, make sure that the school is a good fit for you on paper! One way to do that is through College Match on College Raptor. We help you find the matches that fit your goals, wants, needs, achievements, and more. Start today for free!

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