With the start of Spring Break, many families of high school juniors will be swapping or combining vacation travel with college visits in the weeks and months ahead, especially since this spring marks the first return to regular touring and visiting opportunities at most colleges in several years.
Whether you are headed on a focused trip or just planning to hit a few campuses along the way, it helps to go prepared. We have compiled our favorite tips for making the most of your time and some questions for you to consider and ask on your tours.
Have a great tip or question we missed? Drop it in the comments below.
1. Research First
With thousands of colleges and universities in the United States alone, your options are endless. Before hitting the road, know which schools meet your thresholds for major/career, location/size, and overall cost. You will probably make it to less than 10 campuses over the next year, so know before you go.
Here are some of our favorite online college list research tools:
And here is a great resource for planning the actual trip (note: not all schools are available):
Once your list is whittled down to serious contenders, then you can break them up into geographic bunches that make sense to travel to in one trip.
Have a school that’s too far to travel to? One upside of the pandemic is that most schools now offer a wealth of online opportunities to visit and interact with the admissions and financial aid offices, professors, staff, and coaches.
If your school of interest does not offer these options, email them and ask how you can learn more individually. They will welcome the demonstrated interest and many will work hard to help you learn about their school in other ways.
2. Take A Day
As often as possible, plan to devote an entire day for your visit.
You should take an official tour, but also give yourself time to interact with the campus on your own time to see how it evolves through a 24-hour period. You will eat, sleep, study, socialize, exercise, and hopefully flourish at the school for at least four years, so it helps to do some of those other things while you are onsite.
Before you invest a six-figure sum, spend at least 6 hours getting to know the place in person.
3. Supplemental Materials
Try to supplement your memories of your visit with photos, videos, audio recordings, and social media posts. This will help you recall more about each school and what you found interesting or important than you will remember otherwise, especially if you are doing several schools in a row, since they will all blur together quickly.
A few social media posts including the campus or talking about your favorite parts will also demonstrate interest to those schools later.
We also recommend one person, preferably the parent, be a note taker for any important info or details, and all that info should feed into a larger shared document everyone can access.
4. Know Who Is Talking
Throughout your interactions scheduling the tour and participating on campus, knowing the roles and responsibilities of the representative you are interacting with can help ensure you focus your interest and attention on the right people.
If you get a chance to introduce yourself to someone in the decision-making chain, be sure to capitalize on it and include your first and last name, school, city/state, and one word of context about you: what you are interested in studying or what you look forward to continuing from high school at their school.
Also ask for contact information if you think they might be of any use to you later.
5. Ask Your Questions
Do not ask questions in person that can be answered online. If you have done your research on a school, you should have a few questions specific to you that a school’s website does not cover. Use your in-person time to ask these questions.
Often a guide may not know that level of detail, but they will usually give you the contact information of someone who does, and that person can be a great resource for you in digging deeper into the school.
If you have done your research and do not have any questions directly related to you, consider asking the school representative open-ended questions such as:
These types of questions should elicit unscripted answers that will reveal more details about the school and locale than you are likely to find any other way. It also opens up the possibility of making connections with the representative or others in attendance as you find commonalities and hopefully opens up the opportunity to talk about yourself as it relates to their answers.
Once off the official tour, start asking the same questions of the locals you encounter while eating, shopping, and moving around the area. Your goal is to use every bit of your time on the ground to dig up pros and cons about the school and surrounding area that you can utilize later when making your decision.
6. Enjoy the Ride
The travel options available to get you to a school today will likely not change very much over the next five years, so it pays to note what is really involved to make the trip.
Be sure to keep track of how much time and money your trip to each school is costing you as well, and then multiply that by 3-4 times, because you can expect that much travel each year with breaks, sometimes more, and it needs to figure into your overall budget plan for each school you are considering.
7. Make Sure It Matches
The reality of a school does not always line up with the well-crafted marketing materials, dreamy social media posts, and slick websites students see beforehand.
What you see in person should align with how the school has presented itself online and through representatives prior to your arrival. If the reality does not match those presentations or your realistic expectations, it may indicate other problems that will surface later.
What’s more – take note of what the school did not show you beforehand and be sure to figure out why.
8. Gut Check
First impressions matter – for you and the school – if your inner voice says this place is not for you, be willing to drop a favorite school from consideration once you have visited.
The reason for setting foot on the campus is to confirm that dreams and reality meet.
9. Keep Score
Before heading out, make a table with the important attributes you are looking for in a school. After each visit, give the school a rating from 1-10 for each attribute.
You can total the scores for each school or just use the inter-school numbers for comparison.
Either way, these real-time objective qualifications will help you months later as you try to weigh your choices. Invite parents to do the same so everyone can weigh in objectively later if necessary.
10. Safety First
COVID safety precautions and social norms vary greatly from place to place. Be prepared for what each location may ask you to do (or not do) and act accordingly.
One Year Countdown
Our final tip is to have fun!
It can be a tedious process, but the time spent will be worth it whether you attend that school or not because every additional experience on a college campus will help inform your decision on which school is the right one for you come next April.
You are committing a substantial amount of time and money to a school, so it pays to be prepared and know what you are getting in return.
Need help finding your perfect school or ensuring you are submitting a competitive application package?
Everest offers many options to assist students with their college admissions journey, from summer application workshops to essay editing to complete admissions support packages.
Contact us today to discuss your needs.