College Visits

Visiting colleges is a great way to start deciding what type of college experience is right for you. 

 You can explore the campus, talk to current students, and learn about degree programs. 

Planning a
Visit

You can register for a campus visit on the website of most schools. Sign up early because slots may fill up, especially during busy times like fall or spring break. If you’re planning a trip to see colleges in a specific geographical area, it can be tempting to fit in as many visits as possible. Be careful about doing too many at once, or they may all start to blur. Two a day is the max.

 

If you want to sit in on a class, meet a professor in a specific department, take in a game or a play, or even spend the night in the dorm, most schools will be happy to try to arrange that for you. Call the admissions office in advance to ask what is possible. 

 

You can also drop in on a campus to tour it on your own without attending the information session and tour. If you do, stop by the admissions office first to ask for a self-guided tour or to see if there are any classes or activities that you could drop in on. Colleges will make a note that you’ve visited, which can be important for schools that weigh demonstrated interest.

 

If you’re interested in learning about financial aid, scholarships, or how the school awards their aid money, schedule a visit to the financial aid office. They won’t be able to give you specifics at this point about what sort of aid package you can expect, but this information can still help you plan.

 

Research the school’s website before you go so that you’ll know what you want to learn more about.

During Your
Visit

Most college visits last one to two hours and include an information session where an admissions rep will discuss the admissions process, academics, campus life, and more. This is usually followed by a campus tour led by a current student. Prepare questions not easily answered on the website. 

 

Suggested questions for admissions reps:

  • What sort of student succeeds here?

  • What words of advice do you have for students beginning the application process?

  • What are some common mistakes you see students make during the admissions process?

  • When students struggle, academically or emotionally, what resources are available on campus?

  • Does every student have an academic advisor, and how are they assigned?

  • What type of career planning/placement or internship placement is available?

 

Suggested questions for student tour guides:

  • What surprised you most about coming here?

  • What do students typically do on a Tuesday night? A Saturday night?

  • If you could change one thing about the school, what would it be?

  • What is the political atmosphere? How likely are you to find students with differing viewpoints, and how do they get along?

  • What clubs/activities/classes are most popular? Which have you most enjoyed?

  • How accessible are the professors? Can you describe ways that you’ve been able to connect with them (for research projects, during office hours, over coffee, etc.) 

  • How much time do you typically spend studying each week? Is the academic atmosphere cutthroat and intense, or less stressful and supportive? Do students typically study together?

 

Other things to do during your visit:

  • Eat in the dining hall. 

  • People watch. Are students engaged with each other? Hung over? Stressed? Relaxed?

  • Strike up a conversation with students on campus. That might feel awkward, but most of them will be happy to answer your questions and tell you honestly how they feel about the school.

  • Pick up a copy of the school newspaper.

  • Try to have some fun, too, and explore the community nearby.

Remember, if you visit the campus on a beautiful sunny day, you’re much more likely to have a positive impression than if the weather is freezing or rainy. Same if you have a tour guide you either really like or dislike. Remember that they are only one person on a campus of thousands. Yes, you may have a “gut” feeling about the school but being aware of the human potential for unconscious bias can help you avoid making a decision for superficial reasons.

After Your
Visit

Make some notes as soon as you can after your visit. Jot down anything that particularly caught your attention. Make a note of your tour guide’s name and anything specific—academic, social, or otherwise—that was particularly interesting to you. If the college requires a “Why do you want to go to this school” supplemental essay for the application, this will be helpful to have.

Alternatives
to a
Campus Visit
  • Do a drive through. If you’re on vacation or visiting another area of the country, stop by a school that’s nearby. You can just drive around campus and get a feel for whether you’d like to schedule a more formal visit.

  • Wait. You don’t have to visit every school before applying. If a school is far away, you may want to wait to see if you are admitted. If you are, attend an Admitted Student Day in the spring. 

  • Take a virtual tour. You can learn a lot just by visiting the campus on Google Maps. Also, check out www.YOUniversity.com or YouTube for hundreds of virtual campus tours.

  • Visit a local school that may have a similar feel to one you’re interested in that may be further away: GSU for an urban campus; GA Tech for a research institution; Spelman or Morehouse for an HBCU; Emory or Oglethorpe for a more suburban feel; Berry in Rome, GA, for a rural experience.