Choosing the right college is only one-half of the process required to make a calculated decision. The other half relies on the college visits. However, many are unsure of the ideal time to start visiting colleges. Whether you are a freshman or a senior, understanding the timing and the process is critical.
In this guide, we aim to cover it all. From when and how to schedule to vital considerations during your visit, we will prepare you for the perfect process. In a world with endless possibilities, it is essential to make an informed decision. Hence, read on to learn when you should start your process!
Why Visit Colleges Before Applying?
Before addressing when you should start visiting colleges, discussing the importance of initiating your college visits is essential. While you can access a virtual tour like the one offered by Harvard University, nothing quite matches the experience of exploring the campus firsthand.
So, why should you even consider visiting colleges before applying to them? Here is the list of the top reasons:
Gaining Real-World Perspective
Glossy brochures and pamphlets are often the first thing we receive when considering a college or university. While they provide helpful insights into the college’s features, they often lack real-world perspective.
Hence, by visiting the college, you allow yourself to get immersed in the experience and the atmosphere. Through the process, you will be able to observe students, the architecture around you, and the ambiance of the place. In other words, you can gain a tangible sense of the overall vibe.
Assessing Campus Culture
Reading online statistics and exploring colleges’ rankings will only provide you with limited information. You won’t learn about the culture unless you put yourself in it. Hence, by conducting a visit, you gauge whether the campus environment resonates with your personality and values.
When you are doing the tour, ask yourself a few questions. Does the environment focus on collaboration or competitiveness? How do the students engage and act in general? These questions allow you to estimate students’ overall satisfaction and success.
Connecting with Current Students
Interacting with students who are currently attending the college provides you with different insights. That is especially true if you talk to someone studying the major you are considering pursuing. They often offer a candid overview of the campus, courses, and professors and share tips.
Showcasing Demonstrated Interest
Showing demonstrated interest can contribute immensely to your admission decision. One of the many ways of presenting such an interest is by visiting the campus with enthusiasm, sample questions, and setting yourself apart from the other potential applicants.
When Should You Start Visiting Colleges Then?
So, when should you do college visits? There isn’t a specific time that is the best. However, to embark on this journey and answer the question, we will discuss the timing in three phases. Those include the exploratory phase, the focused stage, and the phase where you finalize your list.
Sophomore and Junior Years: The Exploratory Phase
The question of when to start visiting colleges depends on you and how motivated you are. However, we recommend you explore your options during your sophomore and junior years. Doing so is a strategic choice.
At this stage, your main goal is to explore a variety of colleges that allow you to delve into different choices and available offerings. Such early visits will enable you to familiarize yourself with the college’s environment, campus layout, and potential majors of interest.
Moreover, visiting at such an early stage allows you to attend various events easily. You can attend college fairs, information sessions, and guided tours to prepare yourself for the ultimate decision in a few years.
Summer Before Senior Year: The Focused Phase
According to the College Board, the best season to attend college tours is in the late summer or early September, right before senior year. At this point, right before your senior year begins, you should have a better concept of your academic interests, potential majors, and campus preferences.
Hence, when you go on your tour, utilize your time to stand out and delve deeper into the programs you desire. Moreover, consider scheduling meetings with professors, attending classes, and interacting with current students during such times.
Early Fall of Senior Year: Finalizing Your List
Now is when you should begin to finalize the list of colleges and universities you want to attend. Now, your visits to different campuses should be more strategic than before. These visits should serve as a final validation of your preferences and assist you in ascertaining whether your shortlisted colleges meet expectations.
Moreover, some colleges offer early admission processes. So, demonstrating interest can boost your application during the fall semester. Remember to schedule the visits before application deadlines, giving you enough time for follow-ups, such as writing personal essays.
How Many Colleges Should You Visit?
So, how many college visits should I do? There isn’t a specific answer, yet a targeted approach is the key. You should use the recommended amount as a guideline to aim for visiting between 5 and 8 colleges.
Regardless of how many colleges you settle on, it is essential to maintain a college visit checklist. This allows you to extract all the necessary information from each visit without exceptions. Hence, utilize the list we have created and use it as a checklist for each college visit you go to:
- Research and preparation: confirmation of visit details, study the college thoroughly, and prepare your questions
- On-campus experience: Make sure you complete a campus tour, visit classes, meet with faculty, interact with current students, and explore facilities
- Gather practical information: Learn about financial aid opportunities, housing choices, dining services, and extracurriculars.
- Campus atmosphere and culture: Consider attending an event, strolling through the campus alone, observing the students, and checking out the classes
- Practical considerations: Take notes for each college visit, capture pictures, map the general route, and arrange transportation and accommodation
- Reflection time: Take notes during your tour and after, compare through a pros and cons list, and revisit your list
- Post-visit evaluation: Send thank you notes to professors, admission staff, and others. Also, do further research on unanswered questions and possibly send out emails to get answers.
7 Things to Consider Before Visiting a College Campus
Before you head on your college visit, you need to know what to look for when visiting a college. Hence, we compiled a list of items to help you out, which are items to consider before attending a college tour or visit.
1. Research and plan ahead. You really don’t want to find yourself struggling one day before your visit is due. Hence, make sure you familiarize yourself with everything about the college and have your questions ready.
2. Visit during a school day. It is best to try and experience the campus while it is bustling with students. This also opens up the window for sitting through a lecture.
3. Explore housing options. Don’t forget the dormitories! Check the housing facilities and assess the living situations.
4. Schedule ahead and double-check. Learn how to schedule college visits, which you often can find through the University’s website. You simply need to head to the website and find the visit section. Then, choose a free slot and double-check it by calling the university.
5. Sample campus food. Part of your college experience is going to be the food. Hence, consider experiencing the dining options and trying out the food if available.
6. Show interest. While on tour, remember that you want them to like you as much as they want you to enjoy their campus. Hence, demonstrate genuine interest by asking questions and standing out.
7. Take your camera and a notebook. You must pay attention throughout your visit, note things that stand out, and snap some photos.
Wrapping Things Up: What Grade Should You Start Visiting Colleges?
The importance of visiting the campus cannot be underestimated in the pursuit of finding a suitable college for you. Through this guide, we discussed how to visit colleges and what to do throughout the visit. It boils down to finding a community you believe you can fit in.
However, your timing is everything. Hence, refer to our article to discover everything about the exploratory face, the focused phase, and the final phase. The best time to start your visits is in your junior year and it extends to your senior year. Remember that the process shapes your personal picture of the college. Hence, aim to extract the most out of it.