The importance of college visits

Fall marks the beginning of the college application season for seniors. While this already stressful time has been amplified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still important to visit college campuses. College visits are a key part of finding a college that is a good fit for you.

Why visit colleges?

College visits allow you to receive a firsthand view of a college’s campus and the location of the college. Brochures and websites only give a brief synopsis of a college’s campus and the overall college experience you will receive from the school itself. When you visit a campus, you get a much better feel for the environment that you may spend the next four years of your life in.

It is difficult to describe the feeling one has when arriving at a new campus, but there is a feeling, and that is what is important. I have witnessed first-hand when a student loves a campus, or does not love the campus, upon arrival … While a student can find out basically all he/she needs to know about a campus via the Internet, until a student takes a trip to that campus, the actual experience is just theoretical. 

Douglas Christiansen, Vice Provost for University Enrollment Affairs and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Vanderbilt University
I visited Michigan State University my freshman year. [Source: Kayla Pimpleton]

Visits also show colleges that you are interested in their school. Most colleges are eager to admit applicants who have done their research and are excited about their school.

Most importantly, campus tours provide prospective students with the opportunity to ask questions, explore landmarks on campus, and learn what sets the college apart. You will receive crucial details about the college straight from the source.

The campus visit plays a crucial role in determining if the college or university you are considering is the right “fit” for you. Keep in mind that while you may not be able to visit all of the schools you are interested in, you can certainly look for virtual tours, videos, and blogs that provide more information about the campus and the location. Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit a college close to you. Even though it may not be your first choice, you can tell from the visit if you like “this size of school” or “this type of location.”

Lori Greene, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Butler University

Types of college visits

The most common and well-known type of college visit is a tradition walking campus tour. On these tours, you will usually meet in a large group at a welcome center or some sort of auditorium for a opening presentation. This presentation is held by an admissions counselor from the college and they will give you an overview of the school’s statistics and their admissions process. This presentation may also include information about the college’s housing, transportation, and other fun facts.

After the presentation, the large tour group will break into smaller groups, and the walking tour will begin. This portion of the tour is usually conducted by students at the college, and they will take you through important places on the campus. Overall, a traditional walking tour lasts about two hours.

I recently did a campus tour at Louisiana State University. [Source: Kayla Pimpleton]

COVID-19 has made it much harder for students and parents to tour campuses throughout the summer and this fall. However, most colleges are offering virtual zoom tours or already have some sort of virtual tour on their website. These zoom tours are usually held by current students or admissions counselors of the college, and they give a brief overview of the campus and their admissions process, similar to a normal tour.

Tips for college visits

I have been on a few college visits, so I have some tips on how to make the most out of your time on campus. IvyWise.com also shares some great tips and advice for what to do before, during, and after college visits.

I visited Florida State University last year for a football game. [Source: Kayla Pimpleton]

Before your visit:

  • Make sure to schedule your visit in advance, tours can fill up very quickly. Most colleges allow you to schedule campus tours on their website.
  • Do some research about the school before you arrive on campus.
  • Plan accordingly for transportation, and make sure to check the weather before your tour. You will be spending most of your time outside, so it is important to dress appropriately.

During your visit:

  • Always remember to be respectful. Silence your phone and try not to have private conversations with your parents or friends during the session.
  • Ask questions that benefit the entire group. While personal questions are great, they can be asked later on or after the tour is complete. Try to ask questions about general topics such as transportation, housing, dining, and sports.

After your visit:

  • If possible, try to spend some extra time on campus after your tour. While the tour gives you a general overview, it also helps to walk or drive the campus after you know certain landmarks.
  • Spend time in the city where the campus is located, and visit some notable landmarks. It is always beneficial to get a feel for the campus as a whole by immersing yourself in the entire college experience.
  • Continue to research the school. It is never bad to know too much about a college that you are interested in.
My dad and I pose in front of Tiger Stadium at LSU. [Source: Kayla Pimpleton]

Overall, college visits are extremely beneficial to your college search. I have been on six different tours, and they have all greatly helped me to further understand my choices and narrow down my top colleges. Tours have given me a better view of many schools that I am interested in.

Remember, it is never too early to start visiting colleges, and I wish you the best of luck on your college search!

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