For most students, the college visit is the most important deciding factor in the college they choose to go to. This makes planning college visits and important part of the selection process, that should be scheduled early enough in the process that you don't feel rushed, but late enough so that your child has had some time to do some research first.
How Early Should You Begin Visiting Schools?
It may be beneficial to schedule one or two trips to nearby colleges while your child is in their freshman or sophomore year. This is simply to get them thinking about colleges and getting into the mode of college planning.
By starting this early your child may have an easier time narrowing down their initial list, as they begin to get a better idea of what it is they want in a college. It also allows plenty of time for you and your child to learn about any special admission requirements, or make initial contact with faculty and/ or coaches if applicable to your situation.
We recommend doing the bulk of your visits when your child is in their junior year after they have already done some research into what they are looking for. It's common for a student to "fall in love" with a school during the college tour, so you want to make sure any school you visit is one that is a good choice for your student, both academically and financially.
What Time of Year is Best?
Visiting colleges during the summer is convenient, but it doesn’t always give you the best or honest view of the college or university. It’s hard to get an accurate picture of how busy the student union becomes and how difficult it can be to walk from one part of the campus to the other between classes. Your student also won’t have an accurate feel for how he’ll interact with faculty when there’s a lot of students around.
So when should you schedule your campus visit? The best time during the week is from Monday to Thursday. The campus is busy with students going from class to class or mingling around.
The best season to visit colleges is at the beginning of the fall session. The time various from college to college and includes late-summer to the early of September. Spring time can also be ideal especially for students who plan to participate in athletics or are considering early application deadlines.
Don’t go to colleges during mid-term or final examination weeks. Those times are similar to summer, they won’t give you an accurate view of the college.
Also, don’t visit colleges during:
- Christmas week
- Thanksgiving weekend
- Spring break
- Winter break
- Reading periods
Attend a Class or Two
Visiting a class, especially in your student’s major, will give him a slice of college life. It may be helpful to attend more than one type of class such as a lecture, lab or seminar. It’ll give you and your student a chance to:
- Observe other students
- Experience attending different classes
- Listen to students’ perspectives
- Form an opinion about the college or university
Final Tips for Success
Take a camera and notebook with you. It’ll help you remember all the details of each visit. You’ll be shocked at how easy details begin to blur after visiting more than two colleges. Make a comparison sheet to record impressions you and your student have about each college.
Don't get totally wrapped up in the pretty leaves and picturesque buildings. It is important that your child feel comfortable and enjoy their surroundings, but it is much more important that you feel confident that your sending your child to a school where they'll get a great education for a fair price.
Go on a Virtual Tour. Some schools offer virtual tours you can check out before the actual tour to get acquainted, or after to refresh your memory. Try one here.
Begin building a college list of good matches with your student.