Spring break is a great time to hit the road and take a college tour or two. Although most students won’t be serious about their school visits until later in their high school career, you don’t have to wait until junior year to get started!
College Visits by the Year
Ninth and tenth graders can visit colleges to get a sense of how campuses differ from one another. It’s an opportunity to think about geographic location, school size, setting (urban, suburban, rural), diversity, and extra-curricular activities. Do you want that Division I school athletic experience or are you more interested in small class sizes?
Juniors should take official tours of college campuses and begin “showing their love”, i.e. demonstrating their interest in the schools they will apply to in the fall. Along with determining geographic and setting preferences, students should consider which schools offer the major(s) they are interested in, what the residential life program is like, what study abroad options are available, how much financial aid the school offers and the type of aid students typically receive. A visit to the surrounding community will give a sense for what the off-campus experience can be. Students should sit in on classes and visit the important places on campus like the libraries, dining halls, recreation centers, residential halls, etc.
In senior year, revisits are a good way to compare schools and to determine which one you will ultimately attend. It’s also wise for students to visit schools that they were accepted to, but have not yet visited. It’s critical to get a good feel for the place where you will be spending a significant amount of your time and financial resources over the next four years.
Here’s how you can make the most of your school visit:
Do your homework.
Check out the school’s website before you go. You can get a sense of the school community and what the school values—they’ve put it front and center on their website for a reason. Some schools will offer virtual tours so you can get a sense of the campus before your arrival.
Take a student-led tour.
The times/dates that tours are available are published online by most admission departments. Make sure to sign up early—tours can fill up quickly, especially since many high schools have the same breaks. Make sure school is in session so you get a realistic idea of what the campus is like during the semester.
Ask questions and take notes!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your tour guide, a student, a professor, or anyone else you meet on campus. Create a list of questions that you take to each visit and bring a notebook (or phone) to write down your answers, thoughts, feelings, and observations. Keep your notes organized!
Check out the message boards on campus.
Learn about the community and the issues and topics that are of interest and importance to the students on campus by reading the message boards. You can learn about which organizations are active on campus and what types of events and speakers are welcomed to campus. This includes the school’s official social media accounts!
Visit the places that are important to you.
Even if it’s not on the tour, if you’re interested in a specialized residence hall or a specific program, ask your tour guide or someone in the admission office to help you gain access. These types of requests can and should be made ahead of time to give the school enough time to try to meet your special request.
Starting your school visits early will help reduce the angst that typically accompanies the college application and selection process for students and their families. For even more specific questions to ask based upon your profile, contact us at Leverett Education Advisors to learn how we help families like yours.