5 Ways to Get The Most Out of Your College Visits

How to go beyond the tour and get a real sense of the schools you're visiting.

The flowers are starting to bloom, the air is warming up, and all across the country, high school juniors and their families are preparing for that classic rite of passage: spring break college visits. Before you head out on these exciting trips, we wanted to share a few tips on how to get the most out of your visits. Here are 5 tips for our families about to embark on college visits:

1. Be sure to check in.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but, just in case: make sure to go up to the desk in the admissions office and give your name. (You, the student, not mom or dad!). As we talked about in our post on demonstrated interest, lots of colleges track your visits, so make sure you’re getting the credit! You can check in and often put yourself on the mailing list even if you aren’t officially registered for a tour and information session. Sometimes, your regional representative is in the office, and you may even have the chance to introduce yourself and make a personal connection to the person who will be in charge of reading your file.

2. Go beyond the tour and info session.

Speaking of those lovely tours and info sessions—they’re great, and they’re important, but let’s be honest, they also really start to blend together after you’ve gone to a couple in a row. So, we really recommend trying to leave some time to visit any buildings or departments that might not be covered on your tour. If you’re a scientist, try to see the labs; if you’re a musician, check out their practice and performance spaces. If you’re planning to seek additional academic support in college, check out the learning center to learn more about the support the school offers.

3. Eat in the dining hall.

Yes, it is probably tempting to go to the super-cool restaurant in town—and we promise you can do that for dinner—but while you’re on campus, try to eat in a cafeteria or dining hall. This isn’t only important for the foodies, or those with dietary restrictions who want to check out the dining scene; it’s also one of the best places to get a sense of the general vibe of the student body. Ask about dining at the admissions office before you head to the cafeteria; sometimes they have waivers or coupons for visiting students to eat for free!

4. Take notes.

You will thank yourself when it comes time to write your “why do you want to go here?” essays. Those essays rely on specific details; if you can whip out your phone or notebook and remember the tour guide with whom you struck up a conversation about the psychology department, or the amazing sandwich you had at the #1 student haunt, you’ll be able to put in some of the super-specific details that will help your essay stand out and show that you really put in the time to get to know the school.

5. Follow up.

After you visit, we recommend following up with anyone with whom you had a one-on-one interaction—tour guides and admissions officers often hand out their cards, and you may wish to follow up to thank them, or perhaps you met a student or professor and had a great chat and want to follow up. Even if you didn’t get to meet your regional admissions officer, consider reaching out via email to introduce yourself and ask a thoughtful question or two (NOT, ahem, something you could have found in 2 seconds on the website). At some schools, these communications can become a part of your admissions file, so make sure to proofread before you send anything off.

Above all, have fun! Visiting colleges can be tiring, but it should also be exciting—there’s so much to learn, both about the colleges and about what you want in a college experience. And if you’re not sure where to visit, what to do when you get there, what questions to ask, or how to write a follow-up email, our admissions team is here to help.

If you have any questions about campus visits, contact us.

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