Over the past ten years as a college counselor, I have been asked countless times by families: Does my student need to visit a college before he/she/they apply? Can’t we just wait until they’re accepted before I/we have to take time off of work or spend money to travel? The short answers I always give are: Yes and No! 


Simply put, college visits are important and can actually save money and time, which are both valuable commodities to students and their families. Think of it this way: College visits are like shopping for clothes – it gives a student the chance to try on the outfit for fit before spending their money and bringing it home. 


Taking the time, especially during school breaks and the summer months, provides students and families the opportunity to see a campus and check out things like size, distance from home, surrounding communities, local amenities, student composition and behaviors, school pride, and more. Some might argue that the campus isn’t “alive” when classes are not in session. On one hand, there is something to be said about seeing students and faculty and staff in action. Yet, when just trying to understand what colleges are all about such as what they look like and what they feel like, I stick to the old adage – You just know when you know. 


The right college(s) for a student just exude a sense of belonging. It could be the architecture of the buildings. It could be the location of the campus to its surrounding community. It could be the size of the athletic facilities. It could be the art gallery in the middle of campus. It could be the residence hall room. And for someone like me, it could be the food! (Feel free to reach out and ask me about the world’s best cookie and how it changed my thoughts about a college campus!) 


In addition to allowing a student to get a better sense of what a particular college is all about and whether the campus is a good fit, there is also a little known but valuable role that the college visit plays in the admissions process – Visiting a campus conveys “demonstrated interest” and for some colleges and universities it can be an important factor that influences the decision-making process. 


Making the effort to visit a college, speaking to a campus representative at a local event/fair, meeting with the admission representative when they visit your (or your student’s) high school are all active ways to show your interest. While admission representatives can do an excellent job of conveying what their campus community and opportunities are all about, many will agree, that a visit to campus is really in a student’s best interest. They want to be sure that the students they accept are not just a good for the college, but equally as important, they want to be sure their campus community is going to be a good fit for the student. A content and satisfied student is much more likely to persist and graduate and that is a win-win for everyone. 


While the prospect of visiting a college can be daunting, it really does not have to be. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is start local. Look at some local college/universities, both big and small, and visit their admission sites to find a time to get a tour of campus and go to an information session. If your student is sure they want to attend a large, public state university and there is one within an hour drive – go visit. That quick, half-day trip could reaffirm the student’s desire to only apply to larger schools OR their perception and the reality of what a larger school offers might not actually be what they expected. Let the visit help determine what is important to your student and what is not. This will help firm up the final college list, save them a lot of time and money because they have created a focused and purposeful list of colleges they would be happy to attend, and, if you are lucky, you will get a taste of some pretty great dining hall food (or cookie!)


It is never too early to start looking at colleges. Whether your student is going into 9th, 10th, 11th, or early in 12th grade, they can benefit from the chance to see a college. If you are interested in learning more about how to set-up a college visit trip and/or schedule or want to discuss what are great questions to ask during a tour and information session, feel free to inquire about our services. We are happy to assist with any and all aspects of the college admission and application process. 


More about Dana and her college admissions counseling here: nycadmissionssolutions.com/college