Recently, I have had families ask me about scheduling college visits. While there are many colleges that have yet to fully open up their campuses for tours and information sessions, there are still so many colleges that have been able to safely open up and welcome back prospective students. Even if your family is not able to travel, remember you likely do not have to travel too far to find a campus nearby; even if you might not be interested in attending, taking a visit is still a great opportunity.
Visiting a college campus is something I recommend anytime a student is in high school, no matter what year you may be in. It’s an excellent opportunity to get a feel of the college’s size, location, weather, aesthetics, resources, and more. Visiting a college can also indicate to a student what factors can, or should, be a part of identifying the best fit for them.
If your family is thinking about whether a college visit trip is worthwhile, here are some great reasons for putting together a trip:
- Information sessions and campus tours allow students and parents to ask questions and get a better sense of what the school looks like, their values, what it may be expanding into, etc.
- College tours (especially if visiting when college is in session) allow students to get a sense of the campus’ character
- After the “official” tour, students and parents can often visit areas of particular interest (e.g., sports facilities, art studios, science labs)
- Students can explore the neighboring community to see if they are comfortable in the area
- College tours are a great way to show demonstrated interest. Colleges want students who want them
While on the campus tour, here are things to consider determining if there is a great fit between your needs as a student and what the college and community have to offer:
- Size (colleges range in size – do you want a school with less than 1000 or more than 30,000?)
- Location/distance from home and setting (urban, rural or suburban)
- Degrees offered (BA, BS, BFA, BBA), programs, majors, and classes
- Student body characteristics (diverse, conservative, liberal, studious, outdoorsy)
- Social life and campus culture (Greek life, commuter school, residential housing systems)
- Housing and dining options (vegan/vegetarian, Kosher or Halal options)
- Activities (clubs, organizations, sports, theater)
- Campus facilities
- Chance for admissions (likely, highly selective, hyper-selective)
- Cost of attendance (including need-based and merit-based aid)
Finding the right fits can take time and can evolve as you see more schools and hone in on your specific needs and wants. It is helpful to visit a variety of colleges – one large, one small, one urban, one rural – and pay attention to what you like and dislike about each campus.
After a few information sessions and campus tours, colleges can seem to blend together. This is why the campus visit is so helpful. While walking around campus, take pictures and take down notes on your phone to help keep thoughts organized. Many colleges ask applicants why they want to attend that particular college, so these notes can be useful for essay writing later in the application process.
Visiting colleges requires planning, and even with things opening up, it is really important to know about the COVID protocols that are in place. Make sure to register for information sessions and tours on the individual college’s websites. Carefully read all the rules and instructions for a positive and safe visit.
And remember, sometimes the college tour does not go as planned – students dislike schools they were sure they were going to like. Perhaps parents/family members will love a campus that a student might just find okay. Make sure to have realistic expectations and open communication about how to handle the ups and downs of the college visit trip. In the end, a college road trip can be a wonderful experience and an opportunity for students to learn more about themselves and their priorities for their college experience.
To learn more about how to create a meaningful college visit trip or to get ideas about the right colleges to consider for tours, please schedule a complimentary initial call with Dana at email@example.com to learn more!