Last week we started talking about the importance of in-person college visits and why they are so vital in the college decision-making process. Now that you know this is something you need to prioritize, some natural questions are:
When should I go on visits?
Who should go with me?
How should I plan for the visit?
Is there any preparation I should do before the visit?
We’re answering all of those questions and more today! Read on!
So, first things first. When should I go on visits?
Our first recommendation would be to make your visit in the fall or spring semester and we really recommend you go while classes are in session at that particular school. Nothing replaces an in-person visit and going at the right time will lead to a better tour experience, and chance to talk with people directly.
Beyond this, you may wonder about the timing over the course of your high school years. When should you start visiting schools? When is too early or even too late? Here’s an easy to follow timeline that might help!
Freshman / Sophomore Year: Start getting a taste of different schools. View these initial visits as a relaxed way to get a feel for a school, experience the campus and ask questions. You don’t have to make any real decisions with this type of visit – you’re just getting your feet wet.
Junior Year: At this point, you should be pretty clear on what you are looking for in a school. You can narrow down the places you want to visit to only the schools you’re really interested in. These visits are a bit more serious. This is the time to ask a lot of questions and really investigate each element of the campus and the overall experience.
Senior Year: In a perfect world, you don’t want to be visiting schools for the first time during your senior year. This is the final decision time so you should really only be doing follow up visits, meeting with specific departments or attending things like scholarship weekends. This visit is the time to make your final decision if a particular school is the right match or meets all of your goals.
Next: Who should go with me?
While it may seem fun to bring along your friends or siblings or even going it alone, we really recommend the visit be just for you and one or both of your parents. This will give you some individual time with them to discuss what you think, questions you may have and get an overall feel for the school that you’re thinking about. The key is to eliminate distractions and also bringing along some experience. Many times parents can see things that you can’t. It’s valuable to have a different perspective with you.
That brings us to: How should I plan for the visit?
The old adage is true if you fail to plan you’ll plan to fail. Thinking ahead through your personal schedule, your parent’s work situation and other commitments well in advance is very important. First, determine when everyone involved could attend together and then begin to look at the options that a particular school has. Most schools offer tours on specific dates and times each week. So, make sure to consult that in advance as well as reserving your spot. Most schools offer this online now. It’s not uncommon to need to schedule even two months in advance, so definitely think ahead. Once you’ve got your date and time, it’s time to make a visit plan!
Here are some ideas to get you started on your visit plan:
Evaluate the environment of the campus
Visit the admissions office and participating in informational sessions
Take the student-led tour
Sit in on classes
Eat in the dining hall
Check out the dorms
Write down your thoughts on the way home
These are just a few elements that could be a part of your college visit plan, but it’s most important that you have one and stick to it so you can get the most out of the experience. A good way to think through this is, “What would a normal day look like for me here?” Eating, sleeping, how far away classes are, where you could have downtime… all of these are important to think through for your future happiness!
The last and equally important question to answer is: Is there any preparation I should do before the visit?
Learn as much about the school as possible before visiting through:
Social Media Accounts
Friends / Family / Acquaintances who went to that school you’re visiting
Ask as many questions as you can beforehand to prepare and look over any materials you can get your hands on so you have as much information as possible before setting foot on campus.
This can seem like a lot to keep up with, but we actually have some great software options that compile college data and info into a single place. Just reach out and we’ll be happy to send it your way!
College visits can seem a little nerve-wracking, but we hope some of these steps and planning can put your mind at ease! As always, if you have any questions or need any help, just reach out!