In the last two years, colleges have continued to adapt their policies for on-campus visits. We've seen a rise in virtual visits and ebbs and flows of the traditional on-campus visit. As of January 2022, most colleges seem to remain open for on-campus tours (though most stay outdoors and avoid going into buildings). We highly encourage reserving places in advance if you're planning any spring break tours, as it's a busy time of year for visits. And for an overview of what kind of visit might make sense for you, make sure to check out this post first.
If you’re doing a college visit in junior year, chances are you’re visiting to confirm if you want to apply. We say that because it helps loosen the pressure a little; this isn’t a visit to confirm your lifelong love of a school or if you’ll spend the next four years of your life there. It’s a visit to confirm this is a place worthy of the time and energy of your application. Generally, most college visits before April of senior year serve the purpose of helping you decide if you want to apply – the one exception being visits to schools you’re considering applying early decision to (a binding application pathway), or visits when you’re a senior weighing your college options.
At this earlier phase, you may have a list of schools you’re already excited about, and you’re confirming what’s going to make the cut for that final list. Given that, here are a few things to consider for these kinds of visits:
Remember you’re not looking for a dream college, but a dream list of colleges. We talk about this a lot with college research, but it’s good to remember when doing visits as well. There will be elements of any college on your list that you might not like. But the question you’ll want to confirm on visits is this: Do I like everything else enough that I’d learn to live with it? That’s also a great question to ask current students.
Look for opportunities you can’t replicate online. Seems obvious, but with the rise in online tours, info sessions, and chats with current students, there’s a lot you can do from afar. What’s something only a visit can give you? Whether it’s eating in the dining hall, attending a big game, sitting in a class, or just lounging on the lawn watching people go by, try to find experiences you can’t really do online (and, of course, ones you can do safely!). Remember that college visits don’t need to look the same for every student or at every campus.
Try to envision yourself as a member of this community. As you do those unscripted, in-person experiences, start to think about if you could see yourself as part of this community. Do you see flyers of events you’d want to join? Do you overhear a dining hall conversation that sounds just like you and your friends back home? Colleges often ask in supplemental essays (more on that below) about what you might bring to and what you might gain from their campus community. Whether it’s a gut feeling on the tour or something you observe on campus, make sure to take the time to reflect on what it might be like to be part of their community (pro tip: it helps to carve out a few minutes of solo time to really pretend like you go there).
Take notes. Again, an obvious one, but here’s what people forget: in a few months, you’ll be writing supplemental essays about why you’re applying to this school. And while you can always look up their majors or student to faculty ratio (which, dear reader, we wouldn’t recommend including in your essay), you can’t look up how it felt to be on campus, or an interaction you witnessed between a faculty member and a student, or a protest you saw on campus. Those little moments often are the reasons that led you to apply. More than what you learned, take note of how you felt, or what moved you to say “yep, this is my kind of place” by the end of your visit. It will serve you well in a few months.
About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include counseling, test prep, academic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates.