When to Start Visiting Colleges: A Guide for Prospective Students

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Planning for college is one of the most exciting times in a student's life. Setting up your dorm, meeting new people, and being introduced to different cultures, campus activities, and opportunities. Not to mention the freedom and independence. But it can also be overwhelming between the financial costs and taking on an entirely new kind of course load.

The amount of planning behind an easy transition from high school to college can become stressful, but at Bold.org, we are here to tell you that it doesn't have to be if you start with college campus visits.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of college visits, when the ideal time to visit is, how to prepare for your visits, and ways to prepare for the college transition. The time between now and your first day of college should be taken one day at a time, not stressed out over details you can prepare yourself for. Follow our guide, you will set yourself up for a successful transitioning into the beginning of your future.

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college visits

The Importance of College Visits

Having a few college prospects in your hands can be such a rush. Nothing compares to the feeling of having options and weighing them against your goals when it comes to getting a college education. You get the opportunity to do college tours and get the feel of each college campus. It's such an exhilarating time.

But the purpose of these college visits goes beyond seeing the physical attributes of a beautiful campus; it allows you to immerse yourself in the college environment, interact with students, meet faculty and staff, and get a sense of whether the college aligns with your goals.

Let's go over the different roles a college tour plays in the eyes of prospective students and families.

The Role of College Visits in Decision Making

Statistics show that college visits play a huge role in shaping students' decisions. According to a survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 69% of students who visited a college campus before applying said that the visit strongly influenced their decision to attend.

This is because college visits provide a firsthand experience of the college's atmosphere, as well as campus architecture and attributes, helping students evaluate whether it's the right fit for them.

Imagine walking into the college's state-of-the-art library, with rows upon rows of books and study spaces filled with motivated and determined students. The smell of old books mixed with the sound of pages turning creates an ambiance that ignites your intellectual curiosity. You can envision yourself spending hours lost and focused on your research and study, surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals.

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How College Visits Influence Your Perspective

But other than the physical aspects of campus, the campus visit allows you to fully explore the campus and experience what your future could look like. You get to stroll through the academic buildings and visit the dorms.

You get the chance to speak with current students and get their perspectives on campus life, which is always a plus. Interacting with students and faculty can give you insight into the campus culture, work-school balance, and support most high school students don't get.

When visiting campus, college tours also give you the chance to attend information sessions and meet with admissions counselors. These opportunities can help you understand the college's academic programs, majors, and extracurricular activities. You can learn about internship opportunities, study abroad programs, and research initiatives that can enhance your college experience and prepare you for your future career.

Ultimately, these college visits give you firsthand experiences that go beyond what can be described through websites. They provide a true impression of the college and its community, helping you make an informed decision about your educational journey.

college campus visit

Determining the Right Time for College Visits

But between an already hectic senior year and your real life happening, when is the right time to schedule campus tours? Here are two key factors to consider when planning your visits:

Consider Your High School Schedule

We admit that while there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it's generally recommended to start visiting colleges during your junior year of high school, even if you haven't been accepted to any schools yet. Scouting your top school choices early will give you a clearer understanding of which schools align with your academic and extracurricular goals.

You also want to make sure to visit colleges during the fall or spring, when classes are in session, so you can get a true sense of what college life is like, vs. summer when there are fewer students. During the spring break of your junior year, you will have completed a significant portion of your high school coursework, giving you a solid foundation to assess your academic strengths and interests. And fall begins a new chapter for many students. You can't go wrong with these peak seasons.

Check out these scholarships for high school seniors to help reduce college costs!

Aligning Visits with College Admission Cycles

The second factor to consider is the college admission cycle. Many colleges have specific open houses or designated visitation days for students and families to tour the campus. These days provide a more comprehensive view of the college and include opportunities to attend information sessions, meet with faculty, and engage in any campus activities being offered. Plan your campus visits accordingly to take advantage of these events.

Visiting colleges during their specified visitation days can also give you an advantage in the application process. Admissions officers tend to take note of students who have demonstrated a genuine interest in their school, and visiting during these events shows your commitment and enthusiasm.

Preparing for Your College Visit

As the ball starts rolling, preparing for your college visit becomes more and more exciting. It makes you one step closer to getting a firsthand experience of the campus and interacting with current students and faculty, so what should you do to prepare yourself? Let's go over some important steps to take before your college campus tours:

Researching Colleges Before Your Visit

Now, while touring different campuses is fun, it shouldn't be taken lightly or as a game. It is crucial to spend time researching colleges that interest you. Take your time to deep-dive into the various academic programs your chosen schools offer.

Look through their majors or areas of study that align with your interests and career goals. And explore the student organizations and extracurricular activities available to students on campus. These factors will give you a sense of the kind of campus life and opportunities you may have for personal growth and development.

Be sure to read about the college's mission and values, as well. It's important you understand the core principles and values that guide the institution toward academic success. It'll help you determine if the school is a good fit for you, too. Take note of unique features or programs a particular college might offer that stand out to you, like study abroad opportunities, undergraduate research opportunities, or internship programs.

Gathering this background knowledge will allow you to ask informed questions during your visit that demonstrate your genuine interest in the college. Again, don't forget admissions officers and faculty members appreciate students who have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the institution and its offerings. If you go to these tours prepared, you might leave a lasting impression that can help you in the future.

What to Bring on Your College Visit

As we said, it's important to go to campus tours prepared, and that isn't limited to research and/or mindset. It's important to keep in mind that you are going to have questions, and things will spring up that might take you by surprise, so having the right tools handy will make all the difference. Here are a few essential items to bring when visiting colleges:

  • A notebook and pen: I know it sounds out of the ordinary, but we can assure you will come across various aspects of the college that catch your attention. Whether it's a unique program, a beautiful campus feature, or a piece of advice from a student, having a notebook and pen handy will allow you to jot down these observations and thoughts.
  • Comfortable shoes: College campuses are often expansive, and you'll be doing a lot of walking during your visit. Comfort is key for an all-day tour. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that will keep your feet happy throughout the day. This will allow you to focus on the experience rather than being distracted by uncomfortable footwear.
  • A list of questions: Now, THIS is important. You will have questions for your admission officers, professors, and current students, and it's easy to forget them in the heat of the moment, so having a list of questions on hand will help keep you on track. You might even consider asking about the academic support services available, internship and career placement opportunities, campus resources, and the overall student experience. Don't be afraid to ask all the questions you have relative to your interests and goals, and then some!

By having these items with you, you will be able to engage in meaningful conversations, as well as take notes that will help you compare and contrast different colleges later on. By being well-prepared during your campus visit, you will be one step closer to finding the college that is the perfect match for you.

making the most of your college visit

Making the Most of Your College Visit

So, other than taking a tour around campus, what else can or should you do during your visit? Any and everything you can do! Let's explore some key areas that will help you make the most of your college visit.

Key Areas to Explore During Your Visit

First, you want to make sure you start with a campus tour led by a student guide. Having an official student guide lead your tour will not only give you a chance to see the campus from the eyes of an already enrolled student, it will also give you a chance to get firsthand insight on campus life. Pay attention to all the little details others might ignore. You never know what might come in handy in the future.

You also want to soak in whatever facilities the campus offers. Take in all buildings on campus, like the library, research facilities, athletic facilities, dining hall, and any specialized spaces related to your intended major. Envision yourself working alongside professors and with fellow students on special projects or in student-led organizations.

Explore as much as you can from a student who knows the school. It's important to familiarize yourself with the campus as much as you can so you know where everything is. This will make your first day of class easy and stress-free.

And don't forget about the surrounding community. Explore the local community and its localities like restaurants and shops, even entertainment venues like malls and shopping strips. A thriving surrounding area can enhance your college experience beyond campus life.

Questions to Ask During Your College Visit

Asking questions during your visit is key to getting all the information you want and need. Ask about academic support services and internship opportunities. What's the availability of internships in your field of interest, and what partnerships with local businesses and organizations does the school have? Does the school offer campus community, clubs, and extracurricular activities that align with your interests? Gather as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision later on.

And don't forget about your future studies. Discuss academic support services and tutoring programs; inquire about writing centers and seek academic advisors who can guide you throughout your college journey. These resources can provide valuable assistance in developing effective study strategies, improving your writing skills, and navigating the academic challenges that may arise during your time at college.

And lastly, financial aid and scholarships. We all know a college education can be pricey. Ask about the types of financial aid available, including scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities. Ask about the application process and deadlines, as well as any specific requirements for merit-based scholarships. Ask everything you can and familiarize yourself with the financial resources available to you that can help you get the education you deserve.

preparing for the college transition

Preparing for the College Transition

Now that your college visits are over, it's time to prepare for the next step: the college transition. We know how intimidating heading to college can be, but don't worry. Here are some steps to take that can help you prepare for your college transition:

  • Do more research and familiarize yourself with your chosen school
  • Attend orientation
  • Connect with current students or alumni
  • Join meet-and-greets
  • Read online forums about your chosen school
  • Explore the campus
  • Participate in first-day campus activities
  • Find a good school-life balance
  • Bring pieces of home with you (i.e., pictures, favorite blanket, decor, etc.)
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself
  • Keep in touch with friends and family

The list goes on, but most importantly, take it one day at a time. By following this guide, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the college visitation process and handle the transition to college. Remember, finding the right fit for you is essential for a successful and fulfilling college experience. So start planning your college visits today and embark on an exciting journey towards your future!

college campus visit columbia university

Frequently Asked Questions About When to Start Visiting College

What are ways to prepare for a college visit?

College tours can be exciting. That's why we recommend being prepared for any and everything. Bring a pen and a notebook so you're able to keep track of important campus factors that stand out to you.

You can also have questions written down prior to your visit so you know what to ask. Keep in mind that you will be in for a day of walking around campus, so comfort is everything. Wearing shoes, like sneakers, will support your feet all day and keep you focused on your visit.

When is the right time to start visiting colleges?

While there is no "right time" to start visiting schools, we recommend scheduling campus tours during peak school seasons, spring and fall. With classes in full effect during these seasons, you will be able to get a fuller sense of what the campus is like, the kind of students who attend the school, and what everyday life is like there.

Of course, you can also visit during the summer, but since most students go home for the summer, campus life may not reflect its true nature.

What are the next steps after college campus visits?

The next steps after your campus visit are your preparation and transition to college. Do you do more research on your chosen school, join campus activities or meet-and-greets, talk to friends and family, express your concerns or excitement, read online forums about your chosen school, and when it's time to go, bring pieces of home with you to keep you comforted.

But more importantly, take it one day at a time. Remain focused and prepared, and you'll find yourself having the best college transition possible.

Have questions regarding your upcoming college journey? Visit our blog to read more about our college guides, scholarships, and ways to prepare yourself for your first year of college.

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