The Campus Visit: According To The Experts

By Erin Wheeler, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor  of New York

I love a good road trip!  Sunny weather, loud music, junk food and good company.  It’s always fun to hit the open road and see new places, meet new people and enjoy new experiences.  Taking those trips with family or friends to visit colleges is a huge part of every student’s college search process.

The students we work with at The College Advisor of New York are busy during the spring, summer and early fall months completing visits at colleges that are a good match for their needs.  But there are many types of visit options to consider – some structured and others more flexible.

Virtual Tour – See the campus without leaving your house! Check out the admissions section of the college’s website to find their virtual tour.  Some are done with photos, others are more interactive, but in either case they can give a nice introduction to the campus and facilities.

Discovery Day – Many colleges offer a day for high school underclassmen to come and learn about the school and the application process in general.  It’s a good chance to see a campus and learn how college admissions work.

General Campus Tour – Almost every student will go on a large group tour before submitting applications.  These tours are scheduled by the admissions office and usually led by a current college student.  It takes about an hour to visit some classrooms, residence halls, dining and athletic facilities.  Popular programs are usually highlighted along with visits to that area of campus.  Please consider the time of year, if possible, when planning your trip.  If the visit is during a college break, you’ll see the campus but not the college community.  It’s important to try to schedule visits while the college is in session!  Tour schedules can be found on college websites and you must register for them directly through that link.  This is a very important component of “Demonstrated Interest” as most admission offices keep record of these visits.

Information Session – During an information session one of the members of the admissions team gives an overview of the school, highlighting specific programs and reviewing the application process.  Often, these are coupled with a campus tour and a question and answer session.

Open House – An open house is a great way to cover a lot of ground in one visit.  There will be a general presentation about the school, large campus tours, faculty, staff and athletic coaches available to answer questions, current students to connect with and facilities to see.    Students can find answers to their unique questions about the school in order decide if that college is staying on the list!

Individual Tour or Meal – These opportunities are valuable experiences!  Some time can be spent with a current student, seeing the campus and enjoying the dining hall together.  This is the perfect way to ask specific questions.  Just keep in mind that the information is from this student’s perspective and not everyone has the same opinion.

Class Observation – Just as it sounds!  This is the opportunity to sit in on a college class and get an idea of a professor’s teaching style, the size of the classes, classroom facilities and makeup of the student body.

Accepted Students Day – Once an offer of admission is made, invitations for these events are sent.  There are usually a few days to choose from, and the college welcomes all of the freshmen and transfer students to campus one more time.  These visits often help incoming students make final decisions, get detailed questions answered, find housing possibly take placement exams.  We find these programs to be invaluable!

Recruiting (Athletics) Visit – These programs are set up through the athletic department by a coach who is recruiting the student for a specific sport.  They usually involve spending the day on campus with a current team member, observing a class, going to meals, observing practice or a game and possibly  spending the night.  It’s wise to also let the admissions office know about scheduled recruiting visits prior to arriving on campus.

Overnight Stay – There are schools that allow prospective students to come to campus for an overnight visit with a student who is in the same area of interest, playing the same sport or is an admissions ambassador.  These visits can be tricky, especially if the prospective student doesn’t connect with the host.  An extended day visit or overnight stay with a family friend who attends that college may prove to be more helpful.

It’s important to mention that students don’t have to take part in every visit opportunity.  Throughout the search process, it will become obvious which campuses need more attention and which need less.  By having a good understanding of the definitions of each type of campus visit, students can choose which one best suits their needs.

Regardless of which type you make, college visits give students the understanding to evaluate the school for academic, social and programmatic fit.  As such we highly encourage you to visit.  Happy trails!