Visiting college campuses can be an exciting way to begin envisioning yourself there. You may not be able to visit every college on your list and, for whatever reason, you may find yourself on a trip to a college that you were never that interested in. Regardless of the sentiment behind your visit, we recommend that you attend a few college tours so that you can start to develop a sense about what you appreciate about a campus environment. If possible, say “yes” to every opportunity you get to explore a college campus. Even if you know right away that you’re not interested, you may learn something new about yourself that can inform your choice. Uprooted Academy is here to support you in the process and provide you with a list of ways to make the most of your visits.
Start Planning Early. The College Board advocates for planning college visits as soon as the spring of junior year. It can be helpful to work on your college list prior to mapping out your visits, so that you can target the schools you are most interested in attending and compare and contrast. Many folks choose to plan college tours during spring break or over the summer. This means that campus tours and information sessions can fill up fast, especially around key holidays. You will also want to consider scheduling your visit when classes are in session, for example in the fall, so that you can get a realistic view of campus life.
Know What to Expect. In the world of Covid, preparation is more important than ever before. Check and see if the school you are visiting has a Covid policy in order to take the steps to meet the requirements. If you are driving, look into the parking policy as parking can be challenging on college campuses. It may be helpful to look at a map of the campus to familiarize yourself with where everything is. Additionally, be prepared to walk a lot! Plan an outfit that is appropriate to the weather and comfortable enough to get some steps in.
Personalize Your Visit. Your college experience is yours and yours alone, so make the visits work for you. Check out information regarding sports, clubs, and organizations that you want to learn more about. Visit the dining hall and school gym. If you want to learn more about a particular program at the school, it can be helpful to plan for an additional information session run by that department. Another option is to schedule a visit with a faculty member or shadow a class, if possible. Some campuses even arrange for overnight stays. Planning ahead will help you stay aware of all your options and take advantage of all those that appeal to you.
Budget. We already know that everything about the college process is expensive. For this reason, it’s important to set aside money for college visits. Work with your family to determine how much a visit may cost, considering gas, parking, lunch, any overnight stays and, based on that cost, how many visits you can plan for. This will help you prioritize the schools that are most important to you. It may also be possible to visit campuses that are close to one another to make the most of a trip. Many schools also sponsor college visits with their students, so work with your counselor to see if you can join in on a few trips! Again, be open about the school visits you are sent on, even if they are not on your list. These can still teach you about your preferences. Finally, look into virtual tour options on your school’s website. You may be able to learn more about your school of interest without even leaving your room.
Learn About the Local Community. Your campus community is just as much about the surrounding neighborhood as it is about the dorms, classrooms, and campus facilities. Take some time to research and explore the location of the college you are visiting. Consider whether you prefer to live in a bustling urban area or in a quiet small town. You may end up living or working off campus, so it is important that you feel comfortable wherever you choose to be.
Chat with Current Students. Don’t be shy in reaching out to friends or family that you know who live on campus as they may be able to make space for a visit and give you the inside scoop. If you don’t know anyone, keep that sense of courage and ask your tour guides all the questions, no matter how silly they may seem. Current students are not trying to sell you on their school in the same way an admissions official would be and; therefore, will likely be more honest in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Learn About the Financial Aid Process. Visiting the college campus is a great opportunity to pop into the financial aid office to learn more. Your best bet would be to plan ahead (we can’t emphasize this point enough!) and schedule an appointment to meet with a financial aid officer to discuss all of your options.
Reflect. Make space in your schedule to reflect on each of your college visits. It may be helpful to make notes next to the school in your college list. Did you see anything during your visit that was exciting to you? Can you picture yourself there? Are there aspects about the school that you do not like? What are they? What can you learn about yourself through all this information?
We hope that Uprooted Academy has provided some helpful strategies for you to approach your college visits. We wish you the best of luck as you engage in this process!