Why Campus Visits are Essential for Students
Learn about student life firsthand when you make a college campus visit.
February 25, 2014
When it comes to deciding whether or not colleges are right for you, nothing beats a firsthand campus visit. Sure, pictures and online resources can give you a great idea of what to expect in a college, but a campus visit will let you experience the college or university in person and meet with students and faculty to discuss school curriculum and degree program options.
Time Your Campus Visit
The ideal time to visit a college campus is during the spring of your junior year or fall of your senior year. This will give you enough time to apply for enrollment after you find college options that seem right for you. Also, be sure to see the campus when class is in session so you can get a feel for student life.
The ideal time to visit a college campus is during the spring of your junior year or fall of your senior year.
Campus Visits By Year
You have unique opportunities to visit colleges throughout your high school college prep timeline. Check out these recommendations on when you should visit your prospective colleges and what you should do on each visit.
Take a College Tour
Most colleges offer guided tours where you, your parents and other prospective students get to see the campus and hear a bit about the school. This is a great place to start when you first get to the campus. A host will show you around the school, give you some history, and point out what makes the school unique in comparison to other colleges and universities. Many guided tours require an advance reservation, so be sure to book a tour before you go.
Explore the College on Your Own
Guided tours won't show you everything you'll need to know about the colleges and universities you’re visiting. After the tour, give yourself time to explore the campus on your own. If you’re interested in specific majors, walk through those academic buildings to get a feel for class size, structure and style. Before you visit, find out if you can sit in on a few classes to learn more about the academic programs at the school.
You will also want to visit the college admissions office to ask direct questions about enrollment. Plan ahead by bringing your high school transcript and writing down questions before you visit; a little preparation goes a long way toward making your college visit a successful one.
Talk to Current Students
Don't be shy about asking current students about what they like and dislike about the school, from the food and the social life to the dorms and course descriptions. They’ll be able to paint a realistic picture of the college campus environment. A few focused questions can result in a wealth of information to aid in your college search. If you're hesitant about walking up to students, visit a campus open house. Typically, students will be on hand to field questions during these events.
Take a Virtual Tour
If a community college or university is too far for you to visit in person, an online virtual tour may be a good option. Check to see if the schools that interest you make tour videos and virtual tours available through their websites.
Campus Visit Tips & Tactics
- Find out if the colleges you’re visiting will allow you to stay overnight with current students. Shadowing a student and staying in the college dorms gives you a good sense for student life and gives you opportunities to make friends at the school where you’ll enroll.
- Keep a journal of all of your college visits, and write down pros and cons while it’s still fresh in your mind. Your college visits are bound to run together in your mind, so detailed notes of what you liked, and didn’t like, will help you keep each college and university fresh in your mind.
- When you’ve narrowed down your college search, visit your top choices a second time. You may find the college seems very different on a subsequent visit. A second visit can give you a more balanced sense of campus life and a clearer picture of what your life would be like if you were a student at that school.