Your Campus Visit

When choosing a college, there is one very elemental task you should consider adding to your To Do List – visit the campus!

You have a very important decision to make. You’re about to choose where you will live and study for the next four years. It is inconceivable to imagine a choice such as this being made without having stepped on campus. In fact, it may be acceptable to say that the campus visit is the most valuable step in the selection process. 

The actual time you spend visiting any one particular college campus is very little, especially when considering the end result. It is the preparation for your visit which takes the longest and requires the most work. So, here is how to make the most of your time on campus as a prospective student. 

Is This a Good Time?

What is the best time to visit a college campus? 

The answer to this question is easy-

It is not possible for you to fully grasp the rightness of your participation within a particular assemblage unless you are physically within its communal properties. A successful college experience requires your participation, and in order to gauge your level of participation, you need to observe others in motion-going to class, going to eat, hanging out, and engaging with each other. You need to see: where they sleep, do research, and go during their free time. 

If for whatever reason, it is difficult or impossible for you to visit a college on your final list, it will be up to you to do your very best with all available resources to get all the information you can possibly get. More on that later. 

If you are only able to visit during times when the campus is not fully engaged/in session, you should go but with full awareness that the environment you experience is not at its best. There are resources available that are provided in an effort to give you a sense of the school’s day-to-day life when everyone is there and working. We’ll discuss more on this later.

Why Visit When You Can Go Online?

There are two, very important reasons to visit a campus. 

Reason one:  This is where you may spend four years of your life.  Confuscious said, “Wherever you go, there you are”. So go. Be there. Does it feel right? There is no substitute for the sensations you experience when you are physically in any given space. No website or brochure or telephone call can ever take the place of shaking hands with people you’ve just met, walking the halls of buildings where you may one day study, and hearing the sounds of campus life in the air. 

Reason two: Demonstrated interest. If you and your family take the time to visit a school, attend the Info Session and then apply, the school looks at you as a candidate; an offer. Been there – saw that – want to be a part of it. 

This One’s On The Way – Should We Add It To Our List? IT DEPENDS

Too much of a good thing is….usually overload. You begin to forget specifics no matter how diligent you were in preparing for the visit or how fantastic you are at taking notes. But if you are early in the process and going to a city or n vacation near a college or university, by all means, drop in or plan a tour. This way you will start to know what you like and do not like.

But if you are on a well-planned college tour marathon…what is the reason for adding random college visits to an already packed schedule? Is it close to the others? Does it have a certain reputation, and you or your family are cu

rious? If you did your research well, you know which schools meet your criteria and fit your needs best. Three or four colleges in one trip are about right.

Are you thinking that number is a little low? You’re spending a lot of money on this particular trip, why shouldn’t we throw in a couple more schools to make it worth the time and expense? After all, you’re not going to visit that location again. Well, just don’t be random about it.  Spend more time on each of the campuses you already know are viable options. Your investment deserves thorough scrutiny. Its consideration should not be diminished by hurrying through the experience in order to fit in another visit.  

The colleges you have already scheduled are on your tour because you spent time researching and are truly interested in what these schools have to offer you. You’ve decided they have something special that fits who you are. You’re investing time and energy, and someone is investing the money (your parents…you?), into visiting the schools that made the cut. You’re excited to be on those campuses. They are on your tour if you are thinking of squeezing another school into your tour. Spend more time getting to know the ones you think will help you get what you want out of the next four years and beyond.


How to Plan a Really Great College Tour

This planning part requires (more) research, scheduling, checking the details, communicating, rechecking the details, and communicating some more. If you have trouble with any facet of this process, it’s time to ask for help where and when you need it. This is your college search, so take the lead!

Here are a few of our favorite sites:

Preparation is Key


First, you need to decide which elements of college life are most important to you. Research facilities, specific professors, sports, dorm life, support services, fraternities/sororities….?

All the other pieces of your college life have already been decided or narrowed down. Your college list looked quite different when you first began the selection process. Over time, you narrowed your wish list by campus size, majors and fields of study offered, special programs, finances, activities offered, etc. These decisions have narrowed your college list. 

In order to plan a successful college visit, you’ll need to do some research. (Already mentioned.) We’ll get into this below.

Here Comes The Research!

Know When You Can Go

Coordinate with family members. It’s time to find out when the parental unit can accompany you on this tour.

Schedule the Tours and Information Sessions

These are two different things. 

The campus tour and information session are usually the first things you do on a campus visit. Colleges put a lot of time and effort into these sessions. They understand this is likely your first impression. It’s extremely important to everyone associated with the school that you and your family have a really good experience. So much goes into planning these sessions. They have prepared the elements they believe showcase the school, and they are ready for you to engage with them. 

Information Sessions usually come first. Each college runs these a bit differently. Sometimes you’ll have to sit through a slick marketing video (which is probably available off the college’s website, too). Sometimes, a student panel will offer their impressions. Sometimes it’s more of a lecture by an admissions representative. 

When you register for your campus tour, you will be emailed details of where and when. It’s up to you to get there on time. Good idea to bring the details. 

The Tour usually follows the Info Session. You and your family and some or all of the other visiting families will be directed to follow another person (usually a current student) for a walk around campus. You’ll likely see a sample dorm room, walk through the hall of a building or two, and might be lucky enough to glance at what is going on in a classroom, the library, or other special buildings. Ask the guide questions. Real questions! Are you interested in a club? What is the honors college really like? What meal plan worked best for them? Should you bring a bike?

Now it’s Time to Connect

Finally, it will be up to you to connect. You need to find out if the school lives up to your vision. Can you see yourself being a part of this community? Do you want to be here? You need to find out if the campus feels right. These questions are best answered in person.

This is about you. 

Info Session and Tour

If you did a really good job with the planning, you’ll have checked out the campus map they sent, and you’ll have an idea where the Information Session is being held and how to get there from the parking garage. 

You and your family will check in at the appropriate location, ahead of the scheduled time, and a representative of the Admission Department will usher you into a room full of other prospective students and their families, and you’ll be given a presentation highlighting the wonderful things the school has to offer you. 

When you check in, confirm any appointments you may have arranged (meeting with a professor, interview..?)

During the Info Session, you’ll likely be encouraged to ask any questions you have. Did you bring them along? Did you think of something to ask during the presentation? If you are invited to ask, and your question(s) is appropriate at the time, raise your hand!

Appropriate Attire

It matters. And if you have arranged to meet with a professor or have an interview…need we say anymore? Wear good walking shoes. And bring a bottle of water (for everyone in your family). 

The Tour Guide

Tour guides are usually students who work for the school. Always keep an open mind, and remember to separate your impressions of the guide from your impressions of the school. The information your guide is sharing is what’s important, not how it is being shared. Your guide may be extra perky and full of energy or your guide may be difficult to hear because of a proclivity for mumbling. Some guides are people with whom you will instantly click. Others – not so much. 

Your guide is told which routes to take, which buildings to highlight, and which programs are of special note, and they are coached on how to answer questions from prospective students and families. If your guide does not have the answer to your question(s), make sure s/he helps you find someone who can answer the question when you return from the tour.

Any dorms and residence halls you see on the tour are most likely the nicest on campus. Sometimes the school has one or two which are staged for your visit.  Go ahead and ask the guide for any tips in choosing a residence hall. You may receive some very helpful information tips you wouldn’t pick up anywhere else.

If anything on campus is of particular interest to you, it’s ok to ask whether or not you’ll get a chance to see it on your tour. If you didn’t ask and ended up not seeing whatever it was you wanted to see on your tour, ask about it when you return. Were you hoping to see a specific type of classroom, step inside the library, tour the student center, or take a closer look at the stadium? You might be able to see some of these things on your own. For example, if it was the library, ask for directions and go there yourself.

While you’re on campus, sample the food. Visit the student center. Check out any bulletin boards. 



If after searching the school’s website you are unable to confirm whether or not the college offers interviews as part of the admissions process, call the admissions office and ask. If the answer is no, then move on to the next step. If the school conducts interviews as part of the application process, and there is someone available to do it during the time you are touring, schedule the interview. 

If the school does conduct interviews as part of the admission process but does not have availability during the time you are touring, inquire whether or not you can arrange to interview with someone close to your home. Some schools offer interviews conducted with an alumnus. 

As you can see, this is a step that may require you to make a phone call. If so, be sure you are the one calling. 

If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview, we can help you prepare.  

If you are a Performing Arts student, you may be able to schedule your interview or audition during your visit. The Admission Office may be able to help you do this, or they will refer you to the department.  

If you are a recruited athlete or want to be one, that process starts at home, on your club team and with a resume. Based on the sport, you may be able to try to set up a meeting with the team coaches. Again, Admissions may be able to help with this. If not, you’ll be given the necessary contact information. We have an athletic expert- so don’t go it alone. There are rules with recruited athletes and the NCAA.


Consider making an appointment to meet with a professor. Of course, the logical thing would be to seek an appointment with a professor in the department in which you have an interest, perhaps even the department chair. Admissions may be able to help you with this. Call and ask. Do your research before you call. If fact, you may even try reaching out to the professor directly. If you do have an opportunity to speak with a professor, always begin by introducing yourself and stating the purpose of your call. If the professor refers you to someone else, thank her for the guidance, and follow the advice. Always say “thank you”. If the professor does agree to meet with you, confirm the appointment by calling or emailing a day or two before your appointment. 

That is some good demonstrated interest!  

Bonus, Bonus!

If you’ve scheduled your visit on a weekday, ask Admissions if you can sit in on a class. Call prior to your visit to inquire. They would not allow you to do this as a last-minute thing.