Don’t just show up. Have a game plan in mind so you aren’t just wasting your time.
- Plan to visit more than one campus. Even if you always wanted to go to a specific college, there are no guarantees you will get in and you might be surprised at how you feel about it once you actually visit. So visit at least your top three choices, and your top five, if possible.
- Be sure to visit different types of campuses: private vs. public, small vs. large, urban vs. small town universities. You may not know what you want until you actually see and experience your choices.
- Bring family members along. Visiting a college can be overwhelming. There is a lot to take in and you will be asking many questions. Bringing along parents, a trusted relative, or even a friend or sibling, means you will have more people to ask questions, and talk over your decision with you.
- Contact each college for information on guided tours. All schools offer guided tours, which typically cover basic information and campus highlights. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions to current students that cannot be found online or in a brochure. Your high school may also be in touch with colleges about campus group tours; if so, your counselor will know the details.
- Consider visiting colleges on your own. Either before or after the formal college tour, consider extending your stay or visiting again so that you and your family can wander around campus on your own, visiting public areas and asking students questions about their experiences there. You will also want to visit the town surrounding the campus—a college’s personality draws from its surrounding community.
Where do you want to live? What values do you treasure? Do you want a more rural or suburban experience? Or an urban one? Do you hate biting cold? Do you like going on hikes? If you enjoy the area around you, your stress in school will be manageable. -Neil K., Duke TIP alum
- Schedule your visit carefully. You will want to visit before it is time to put in your application: college applications cost money and a visit may convince you it’s not worth applying. If you are arranging a visit on your own, be sure to avoid Fridays, exam time, academic year breaks, and holidays when the campus will be virtually empty—a deserted campus does not give you a very good idea of what going there would be like. Visiting in late summer and early September are usually good times to visit since college classes tend to start by mid-August and will be in full swing. Otherwise, if you are arranging a visit through the college’s admissions office, you will be given a range of tour dates to choose from. If you are taking a group tour, the date and time will be limited by whoever is arranging the tour.
- Obtain maps of the campuses you intend to visit, and mark the residence halls, buildings, and facilities you would like to see. While it is unlikely the guided tour will take you to all of them, you can always head out after the official tour and check out the remaining spots for yourself.
- Before you go, know where the admissions office is located and check out the parking situation so you do not begin your visit feeling frustrated or arriving late.
- Prepare an evaluation form for each college you visit, one that lists what’s most important to you. Be sure to fill out the evaluation form right after your visit, while information is still fresh in your mind.
- Dress comfortably, especially when it comes to your shoes, as you will be walking a great deal. Be prepared for rain or shine.
- Pack a notebook and a camera for your visit so that you can record your impressions. It is very easy to forget details or to mix up campuses if you visit more than a few. You should also collect business cards during your visit in case you have additional questions later.
- If you remain interested in applying to the school, try to meet—or at least get the name of—the admissions officer assigned to your geographic region. Talking with that person can provide you with answers to your questions and indicates your interest to the school.