Campus Visits: The Total Breakdown
There are always some mixed emotions about visiting a college or university that you’ve been daydreaming about when you’re supposed to be paying attention to the math lecture. You don’t want to shatter the perfect image you’ve conjured of idyllic afternoons spent on the quad, but you also don’t want to rely on the carefully posed pictures in the brochure, either.
The fact of the matter is this: before you sign any agreements to enroll at a college, you should put every effort into visiting. Whether it’s one, ten, or twenty hours away, it’s worth the trek. After all, this is where you’ll be spending four of the most formidable years of your life. You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it, a house without stepping foot into it, or even a speaker without trying out the sound quality first.
Don’t agree to spend thousands of dollars at a college that you don’t even know you’re going to like.
Even if you’re sure sure about where you want to get your higher education, campus visits play another key role in the admissions process: they show interest.
It’s becoming easier and easier as the years go by to apply to colleges thanks to the existence of bulk-applying websites, like the Common Application. This is great! It’s an awesome way to help high school students apply to more colleges, but there’s an unintended negative side effect: colleges can no longer tell who really wants to attend their colleges.
When it comes to making their final decisions and it’s between two students with equal academics and qualifiers, they’re going to admit the student that has actively shown interest in their institutions, whether that be through social media, inquiries, or, you guessed it, a campus visit.
Just food for thought.
Let’s assume that the colleges you’re scheduling visits for check all of the boxes: they’re the right size, have your major, and are feasible for you to get accepted to. If you’re still on the fence about some of this, mosey on over to our Match & Fit Sections on College, Major, and Admission. Then saunter on back over here. We’ll get it all together.
You all good? Alright, let’s start with the basics:
How Many Colleges Should I Visit?
Visit at least two colleges. Visit as many as your budget and time allows, but at least journey to two of them. You have to know your options. This is especially crucial if you’re torn about what type of college you want to attend.
How else will you figure out if you dig the vibes of a small, 5,000-student private school versus a 20,000+ mammoth-sized public university? I mean, Google can help, but it can only get you so far.
When Should I Start Going?
My best recommendation is this: don’t start visiting colleges in your senior year of high school. Typically, it’s recommended that you begin visiting your junior year, but if you can pop over to the closest ones your freshman and sophomore years of HS, please, have at it.
There are a number of reasons you should drop by contenders on your list as young as 14, mostly to preserve your sanity. Think about it: junior year is filled with standardized testing and it’s the year that’s often most scrutinized by colleges. You need to focus on your classes, keeping (or raising) your GPA up, and making sure to participate in extracurriculars. There might even be a job thrown into the mix around this time.
Yeah. It’s a lot.
Then, as soon as all of that madness is over, you have to begin applying to colleges. It comes on quick, I’ll tell you that much. You turn around and those application deadlines are looming over you. It’s especially a problem if you’re interested in Early Acceptance or Decision, which often have deadlines as early as November.
Which is why I say, without a shred of doubt, that you should compile a list your freshman year and schedule visits for your sophomore year. You can scatter some throughout your junior and senior years, for sure, but utilize your time wisely, is basically what this comes down to.
NEXT ARTICLE IN THE SERIES: What Are My Visiting Options? (coming soon!)