Planning Your College Visits

university entrance arch
Heather Gupton
Heather Gupton

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Visiting college campuses is one of the most exciting parts of the college application process… apart from getting acceptance letters, of course! However, a lot of students don’t know what schools to visit, or what questions to ask once they’re there. Be strategic about the schools you visit and the information you gather! When you do, you can use your college visits efficiently and really find a school that’s the best match for you.

College visits are a great way to finalize the list of schools you’re applying to so it’s important to make sure you see a lot of them and that you do so, well in advance of submitting your applications. Here are a few things to consider when making a college visit roadmap.

Visit a wide variety of schools with different attributes .

Colleges often fall into the following categories:  private vs. public; rural, suburban or urban;  and small, medium, or large. You can find detailed college profiles including these attributes in our proprietary Empowerly Portal if you work with one of our counselors. Unless there are specific categories you know you want to avoid (for example, you grew up in a rural community and now you want to live in a big city), you should visit at least one school that falls into each of these categories. 

You may have other personal preferences; for instance, “I want to go to school less than 6 hours from home,” or “I want to go to a school with impressive sports teams.” These will help you narrow down your list of potential colleges as well. Once you have a general idea of what kind of college you’d like to go to, you can be more specific with the attributes you’re looking for.

Focus on aspects of a university you plan to utilize like the student center and dorms.

I remember being impressed with a particular college as I took a college tour. However, I wanted to be a chemistry major, and the science buildings were located far away from the rest of campus; this was a factor I didn’t like. These are the kinds of things to look for once you’ve narrowed your list. Do you like the academic buildings you’ll be in, does the school let you live off campus at any point, is the student fitness center easily accessible? Pay attention to these aspects as you go on a tour of campus and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t see something you’re interested in. Things like access to the gym and the aesthetics of the buildings might not be make-or-break factors, but they can help you decide between colleges that otherwise might be very similar.

Take an official tour but talk to people other than just your tour guide.

Going on the official tour can be beneficial for some schools as a way to demonstrate your interest in a college and boost your application. Some schools like large public schools or very elite universities are less likely to care if you have visited their campus. However, smaller liberal arts school frequently view your engagement and interest in the school as a factor in your application.

Keep in mind that when you go on official tours, you’re getting a perfectly rehearsed version of the campus and it is definitely a biased opinion. If you can, talk to students on campus, a professor holding office hours on the quad (yes, this does happen), or your tour guide separately from the group to try to get a more honest opinion of the campus.

On all your college visits, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should never leave a campus with unanswered questions!

Questions? Let us know!