As high school seniors start planning for their first year in college, current juniors (as well as freshmen and sophomores) are beginning to consider the college application process. An important part of that journey is the college visit. It’s never too early to tour the campus of a school you may be considering—even if you’re not 100% sure you want to attend a particular school and/or you haven’t decided on a major course of study.

Why do I need to visit a campus?

It is important that the college you ultimately choose to attend is a good fit for you—the best place to live and learn in. College visits give you the opportunity to see if a college aligns with your academic, social, and extracurricular interests. In short, this helps you to make an informed decision.

College Visits: Where should I start?

Deciding where to begin your college tours may seem like a daunting task at first, but there are steps for ensuring that the tour is a good experience. Many college counselors suggest starting with a school nearby. Some high schools even arrange group trips to colleges, or you can schedule a group trip of your own. Of course, family trips are also important, as they involve family members who will be key in decision-making later down the road.

Deciding Which Schools to Visit

Deciding which schools to visit may seem to be an easy decision, but it can actually be one of the most difficult to make. Aside from considering which colleges you prefer and want to apply to; you need to delve further—do you think you’d prefer a large state university or a smaller liberal arts school—or maybe something in between? It’s a good idea to schedule visits to schools of different sizes in order to get a feel for each option. You’ll also want to consider how far away a school is and if you would be comfortable being far away from home. Location, size, and available programs are key points to consider when scheduling a tour.

Regardless of where and how you will be touring a college, be sure to visit each school’s website prior to your visit for information relative to your tour. Many schools offer virtual tours, which is a great way to get to know about a campus prior to your visit. Prioritize your trips and spend time researching each institution you plan on visiting. Familiarize yourself with their history, academics, extracurriculars, social life, and community. Get a map of the campus if possible and note places of interest to include in your visit.

Once you’ve researched the school, contact the admissions office to schedule a tour. (This can be done by phone, or often online.) They will provide you with available dates and help you plan your itinerary. If you have any special requests—such as visiting a particular class or lab or talking with a coach—they can address those as well. Be sure to make a list of questions to ask so that all your concerns are addressed.

When should I start touring?

What is the best time to tour campuses or schedule college visits? That often depends on a student’s year in school. High school seniors should plan on visiting prior to major application deadlines. Common application deadline dates vary, but are generally within the same timeframe, with some exceptions. Early decision (ED) deadlines are usually November 1 or 15. (ED is a binding commitment, so students must withdraw their other college applications if accepted.)

Early Action (EA) are usually in November or December. This is a non-binding commitment, so students can continue to explore other schools. Regular Decision (RD) deadlines generally fall somewhere between January 1 or 15. Rolling Admission (RA) means that colleges review applications as they receive them and make decisions throughout the year, so scheduling a tour earlier than later may be the best option.

When in doubt, plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time for all of your college visits. High school juniors generally have more flexibility when visiting colleges because they are not in a time crunch. This obviously holds true for freshmen and sophomores. Flexibility means that you can visit at any time during the year. You can schedule your trips during school breaks, weekends, or whatever time fits your schedule.

College Visits: Things to consider on your tour day

  1. Don’t try to cram too much into the day. To get the best feel for each school, you’ll want to devote as much time as needed for tours, making sure that you are able to get as much from the visit as possible. Trying to do too much can impede upon your ability to find out all the information you need. Discerning what is and is not important is imperative; you’ll want to spend as much time as possible on the things that a priority for you. This is why many college counselors discourage students from scheduling more than one school visit a day.
  2. Dress comfortably. You’ll more than likely be doing a lot of walking on tour day, so dress in comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing. This includes sturdy, comfortable shoes. Unless you are having a formal interview, casual is the way to go.
  3. When in doubt, ASK. We’ve all probably heard some form of the saying, “There is no such thing as a silly question.” In this case, the only silly question is the one not asked. Your tour is a fact-finding trip. Your goal is to find out as much as you can about a perspective school so that you can make the decision that is best for you. Write down any questions you have before your tour, and don’t be shy about asking those, or anything else that comes to mind. Tour guides and counselors are there to help.
  4. Engage with students. Speaking of asking questions, a terrific source for some answers can be the students themselves. Ask students about their experiences with the school, their favorite classes/professors, restaurants/food services, student life, etc. Hearing about these things from the people who are experiencing them can be a true asset.
  5. Take good notes. Whether you plan on visiting one or multiple schools, it is important to take good notes on your tour so that you can refer to them later and compare them to other schools you visit. These should include answers to the questions you’ve asked, as well as any additional pertinent information you learn in your visit.

For more information about college visits or campus tours, feel free to contact one of our Moxie college counselors. We are here to make sure your college admissions journey is successful!