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Making the Most of your College Visits

Alumni Relationship Manager Payton Ksidakis and Senior College Coach Carrie Jorgenson discuss the importance of campus visits and how to make the most out of the experience.

When you walk onto campus for your first official college tour, you will experience the thrill of observing students rushing to class, studying on the quad, conversing with peers and professors, and the infectious, welcoming buzz of a college campus. This can be overwhelming yet so exciting, and it’s why touring colleges is one of the most important steps in the college research process.

There are countless benefits to visiting college campuses. After a successful tour, students leave with a better understanding of the best-fit type of college for them. Campus visits allow students to visualize themselves at particular schools and perhaps even act as the tipping point in deciding to apply to a particular college via Early Decision (a binding application decision). Many colleges ask students to share on their applications why they are interested in their particular school. When a student has visited campus, the response to this "Why X college?" question is inevitably strengthened.

Although it is possible to visit all campuses on your list, it can be tricky to find the time to do so. When starting the process of scheduling campus visits, it is essential to streamline visits to fit as many campuses as possible onto your itinerary.

Keep in mind, however, most schools only offer tours Monday through Friday during regular business hours. We suggest students visit no more than two schools per day to allow ample time before and after each tour to explore, reflect and soak up as much of each campus culture and surrounding areas as possible. If you aren’t able to schedule an official tour, which you can easily do by visiting the college's website, be sure to visit the admissions office while on campus to get resources for self-guided tours and ask any initial questions.

As you wander across campus, actively listen to your tour guide and observe students. Tour guides are typically current junior and senior students and they will point out things like the dining hall location or the best library for late-night cramming sessions. They will share information about how to build your class schedule to be successful in your undergraduate career and give you fun facts and a history lesson on the architecture and surrounding area. Who knows, you may even learn the alma mater!

You will certainly download a lot of information in a short period of time, so it is beneficial for students to take notes on their phones to keep well-recorded records of each visit. We recommend students reflect on each visit and take note of what was liked and disliked about the school, observations such as class sizes, how to select a major, campus life, and surrounding areas and write down any questions that arose during the visit. You will definitely want to write down the email address of your tour guide and try to spend a few minutes at the admission office to find out who your regional admission officer is. This is the person who will likely be responsible for reading your application. The last step will be to write a thoughtful thank you note to your tour guide and regional admission officer expressing your gratitude and interest in the school.

As you conclude your visits, allow yourself time to decompress and reflect on your time spent at each campus, review your notes and add any thoughts or questions. We know it’s not possible to visit every campus on your initial list, or you may want to re-visit campuses. In that case, virtual information sessions and tours can be a great way to learn more and refresh your mind as you finalize your college list.

So the next step? Plan out your ideal itinerary and get those official (or virtual) tours booked!