Advice on College Visits
As a senior in the midst of the college process, I wanted to offer advice to the juniors for next year regarding college visits.
I was never really interested in many universities along the East Coast, so most of my visits involved flying. This was not only wildly expensive, but a huge time commitment. Even if I didn’t miss class for these excursions, it was still difficult to do homework, so I often fell somewhat behind. Visiting is also not really a choice. At many schools, “demonstrating interest” is a crucial part of the application. Yes, there are other ways to show interest in a school (interviewing, college fairs, local information sessions, etc.), but many of admissions representatives I talked to indicated visiting was vital. This is not to say students have to visit every school they are applying to, but if they have the means, it is almost expected students visit their top choices. In some instances, so-called “safety schools” will even go as far as to reject students with the assumption that they are not interested in the school because they haven’t visited. Moving past how unfair this is for applicants who simply can’t fly across the country or even drive upstate for a weekend school visit, because students are spending a lot of time and money, it is vital that they make the most out of every trip.
So how does one do that? In my experience, there are a couple of easy things that will help make sure your trips aren’t in vain. First, do research! You should always do at least a couple of hours of research on a university before you even consider visiting it. The further away the school is, the more money and time it will cost to tour. Thus, the more research you should do before deciding to visit. Scour their website for information and programs in your areas of interest. Read student reviews. Check out the school in the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Look it up on Niche.com. There is so much information at your fingertips that you should never visit a school blind. Your trip should also always include talking or meeting up with a current attendee of the university you are touring. Even if you have to talk to someone you have literally never met, trust me, it is worth it. At a couple schools, I neglected to do this, and I regret it; students give you a more authentic feel of the college. Furthermore, when you talk to current students, don’t be afraid to ask them anything you are curious about. You should never refrain from bringing up certain topics like party culture, hazing, safety, or anything else you want to learn more about because you barely know the person you are talking to and it might get uncomfortable. The third and last piece of advice I have to offer is to do your visits early. You do not want to worry about visiting colleges in the first semester of senior year. You will be so busy and overwhelmed that the last thing you’ll want to do is tour. This then leads to you having a biased perception of a college because of your workload and attitude.
Visiting colleges can be super fun and beneficial if it’s done the right way. Having good college tours also makes it easier to write supplements and decide where you are going to apply. There are a lot of other ways to optimize your trips, but following the three above will undoubtedly help and guarantee you at least get something out of every visit.