Making the Most of College Visits

Rising high school juniors and seniors need to schedule time to visit colleges, and summer can be ideal. Most colleges are in session in the summer, and although the campus may not be as robust as during the school year, high school families often have time during summer break. 

It’s important for college bound high school students to visit at least a few colleges, to see what a campus is like, and to imagine themselves among real college students. This is true whether or not the campus you visit is your student’s first choice college. 

Here is how to get the most our of your summer college visits:

  1. Visit colleges near home

Even if your student is sure they are leaving their hometown, visiting colleges nearby is a cost effective way to discover different types of colleges available.

Visit a local large public university. What’s it like to be on a sprawling, busy, diverse campus? Look for school publications if available, and some of the bulletin boards around campus to check the vibe. Eat with real students in the dining hall. Ask students what they like or don’t like about their college. 

Visit a smaller, private college or university nearby. A small school will likely feel very different to your student than a large one. See if a smaller environment, smaller class size, more opportunities to participate in clubs and groups on campus, more leadership opportunities, and more robust academic and career advising is right for your student.

If your family is open to a religious college and there is one nearby, consider visiting. Many communities have a Catholic, Christian or Jesuit school. Most colleges accept students regardless of religious affiliation, and students of other religions or no religion generally feel welcome on these campuses.

After you have a sense of the types of colleges in your community your student likes, expand your search to include like colleges out of town. However, you don’t need to visit every college on your student’s final list, especially if it is far away. There will time after admittance.

2. Take the student led tour, but not too seriously

When your student visits a college that truly interests them, do your research. You are about to spend more than $100,000 on your student’s education, and you need to make sure the college will benefit your student academically and socially.

Attend the student led tour, but keep in mind that tour guides, while proud of their school, work for the admissions office. You can glean a lot of information from a student led tour, but you’re going to have to dig in with your own questions to determine if the college is right for your student.

Ask questions of the guide, and meet with an admissions officer. 

3. Have a list of questions

Questions will vary by student, but here are some topics to consider exploring with your guide or admissions officer:

  • Is my major offered here? 

  • Do undergraduate research opportunities exist? Is it competitive to obtain one?

  • How easy is it to get an internship in my field?

  • What is advising like here?

  • Is there direct admittance into my major or do I have to meet certain criteria before declaring my major?

  • hat career advising is offered here?

  • How many Freshmen and upperclassmen live on campus?

  • What percentage of students graduate in four years? 

  • What study abroad opportunities are available?

  • What percentage of students participate in Greek Life?

  • What is a typical day like on this campus?

4. Take Photos or Make Notes

Many colleges look alike after awhile. I remind my students to take lots of photos, which are a visual reminder of the campus, and students will remember why they took a photo of something meaningful during their visit. Photos bring back powerful memories, and our students find that it’s a better reminder of the campus vibe and how the student felt than written notes.

5. Now, start searching.

After visiting a colleges where you live, followed by some that your student actually is considering applying to, search for others that share similar attributes. 

There are many college search tools available online, including Big Future, College Navigator, and CollegeXpress. Each isolates key features and comprehensive searches. 

If instead you need the services of an Independent Educational Consultant to help you search for appropriate colleges with your student’s best fit in mind, and manage financial issues related to college, we would be glad to help you.