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How to Take Control of the College Visit

With summer quickly approaching, it is the time of the year that families begin to look towards visiting colleges. It is extremely important that you visit the colleges you are interested in. There are two primary reasons for this. First, while some schools may look great on paper, they may not meet your expectations or simply not be a good fit for you. We have seen too many students who accept a spot, only to transfer after the first semester because it was not what they expected. When asked, “Did you visit?”, most readily admit they did not.  Second, many colleges look at a student visiting their campus as part of demonstrating they are interested in the college. Called “demonstrated interest”, it is often one of the criteria they are for looking at when reviewing your academic and non-academic factors, sometimes ranking it as high as character/personal qualities, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities.

There are 6 different types of ways to “visit” a college. While a traditional formal visit is always advised, especially so you can see not only the campus but the area around it, depending on time and your budget, these will all provide you with a better sense of the college.

  • Formal Visits: A formal visit to a college typically includes signing up for a tour to see the campus and facilities with a tour guide and learn about their programs.
  • Informal Visits: Informally visiting a college is just as important as doing a formal visit. Walking around campus and seeing the city around the campus can give you a better sense of how it might be to live there.
  • Fly-ins: Some colleges offer fly-in opportunities at no cost to students. You usually need to apply for this type of program.
  • High School Visits: Admission representatives often visit high schools, so you should try to meet the representatives from every college on your list that comes to your high school.
  • College Fairs: College fairs are another great way to get information about colleges you are interested in, as they provide “one-stop shopping” with access to representatives from a number of colleges.
  • Virtual Fairs: Since COVID-19, colleges have moved to providing virtual college fairs where students can still interact and meet college admissions representatives.

A word of caution when doing a college visit. College admission events are well-designed and implemented. Your campus tour is usually led by a likable and knowledgeable student at the college. You get to see the nice landscaping and the new, fancy buildings. You should understand that you are a potential paying customer and the college is trying to get you to buy in. Colleges spend a lot of money on their marketing, branding, and advertising all aimed at getting you to feel that this is the best place possible for you. And, in fact, it might be. But a college visit is not the time to be a passive consumer; you should get yourself ready to ask questions that will enable you to better understand what that college is really all about. This is a time to gather as much objective information about the college as you can.

Some Examples:

  • If you have an IEP or a 504 Plan, you should visit and meet with the office that supports students with disabilities on campus.
  • Be sure to explore writing and tutoring services, as well as academic and personal counseling services that are there to support you and help you be successful.
  • You should also learn about alumni networks, mentoring support, and the career center to help you transition into the world of work after you graduate.

Enjoy your visits!