10 Tips for Visiting Colleges

How to make the most out of your college search


Carmen Harris, Staff Reporter

The college search can be almost as stressful as college itself. At the same time, planning the next four years of your life can be fun. As a seasoned college visitor, here are some tips to get you through the craziness of college visits.

  1.     Plan early so that you can do everything you want

This may seem pretty obvious, but a lot of people don’t schedule in advance and end up missing the whole experience. It’s important to think about what you want to do, maybe just a tour and an information session or maybe an in depth interview with alumni. This all depends on your level of interest in the school too. You’ll probably focus less on one of your safety schools than your dream schools.

  1.     Schedule an interview if possible

A lot of schools, specifically small schools, offer interviews for the school to put a person behind the application. They could be informal get-to-know-you interviews with actual students or formal interviews with people that work for the college. Either way, these half hour interviews can greatly help your chances for getting into your dream school. They also help you actually see what the college is like, not just what the website tells you.

  1.     Ask as many questions as you can while you’re there

To get the best out of your visit, try to get all the information you can when you’re there. This can mean picking up as many brochures as you can carry or taking notes of everything your tour guide says. It can be intimidating to ask questions especially in large tour groups, but it’s best to leave the school with all your burning questions answered. Most of the answers to your questions might be hidden somewhere on the school’s website, but it’s easier and less time consuming to overwhelm your tour guide with questions instead of desperately searching the answers later.

  1.     Keep an open mind

Even if you have a specific dream school in mind, your can change your mind when you actually visit different colleges. It’s easy to build up a specific school in your mind after reading all the facts about it, but it ends up being extremely different than actually being there. When you visit a school, you see a lot more than ACT scores and class sizes. You have the opportunity to see the school as a whole, so it’s important to be open to the idea that your top school can easily change after a few visits.

  1.     Talk to actual students on the campus

This is a pretty important tip because it lets you know what the atmosphere is actually like at your school. The people you talk likely are similar to the type of people that go to that school. It’s important to not judge the entire school based on a few people, but it can definitely help you gage what people are really like there. When I was visiting a college, I got lost trying to find the bookstore and a nice senior at that school helped me get to where I was going. Just seeing the kind and easygoing people that went there made me like the school that much more.

  1.     Don’t only think about academics, campus life is key

Academics are definitely a huge part of your decision for college, but student life is extremely important too. How happy you will be at your school depends on you researching what the school is actually like. Everyone is different so some people prefer big party schools versus small quaint school. You can learn about student life by asking questions during your visit or by merely observing the campus.

  1.     Venture out on your own- don’t only rely on the tour

While college tours are great and informative, it’s always a good idea to wander around campus on your own. College tours are filtered so that you only see exactly what the college wants you to. You get a better idea of student life and the sense of community at any given university if you wander off. With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, a year or so from now you could be walking through this campus every day.

  1.     Check out the downtown and what the community life is like

Though you’ll spend a lot of time on campus, you’ll also be out in the downtown and the community a lot. It’s really important that you like the atmosphere of the town and the people in it. Some people love big cities that are crowded and exciting, but others love sleepy small towns that are deserted, but have the cutest local coffee shops in the state. The town often reflects the same basic qualities of the school and many universities interact with the towns for many activities and organizations. It’s important that you know what you want in both a school and in a community because both of those things will be a big part of your life for the next four years.

  1.     Take pictures

Chances are that you’ll visit your school a long time before you make your big decision and begin college applications. The pictures to take can help take you back to how you felt when you visited your top school and can ultimately help you make your decision.  A large part of your decision is based on if you can truly see yourself at all the different schools, so this can help refresh your memory and help you make your decision.

  1. Trust your gut

After visiting all of your top schools, the most important thing is to rely on your instinct to make your decision. Sometimes two schools look the same on paper, but your general feeling of the school can make your decision for you. It’s not just about how good the school is or what your parents think of it, what matters most is whether or not you can picture yourself there. The bottom line is that you will be walking through the campus everyday and staying up all night in the library for finals. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your decision, it matters that you are happy at a school that challenges you.