Making the Most of Your College Visits

If you’re a rising freshman, sophomore, or junior and traveling on vacation this summer, side visits to conveniently located campuses can be useful in discovering what you like or don’t like about specific colleges. However, if you’re a rising high school senior who aspires to attend a top-tier institution, part of your summer should definitely be devoted to college visits. This is true even if you’re determined to be admitted to and attend your “dream” school — perhaps especially if this is the case.

For rising seniors, campus visits are invaluable. Few students have developed a college list consisting of 12 or 13 schools to which they’ll apply that range from “safety” to “reach” in their probability of admission, as IvySelect advises. For this reason alone, visiting multiple campuses this summer may be essential in identifying your list of target schools, a key step in the achievement of your educational goals. 

You should only visit schools this summer that meet the general requirements that you’ve already set for the type of institution that you’d like to attend. If you’ve already visited a school and aren’t sure if it should be on your list, a second visit may remind you of what you liked about that school and what you didn’t. Since you’ve researched many other colleges since your first visit, the second look may tell you that the school should be dropped from your list. 

IvySelect advises that the key to a successful college visit is to plan it thoroughly. You’ll usually need to make an appointment to go on a campus tour and attend an information session. You’ll certainly need to schedule an interview with someone in the admissions office if the school offers them. Also, try to schedule a meeting with a professor in your intended major to ask questions about the program. Use this as another opportunity to express your enthusiasm for that discipline. There are likely to be summer course sessions ongoing, so you may be able to sit in on a class or two with permission of the admissions office.

IvySelect also advises that you research an institution before you visit it. Review the school’s .edu website thoroughly, especially the course catalogue and requirements for your major. In addition, check out subjective guide publications that rank, compare, and describe colleges and universities relative to their peer institutions. If you’re scheduled for an interview, prepare questions that will show that you did your homework and are genuinely interested in answers to questions about matters not covered in the school’s available materials.

Make the limited time that you spend on campus as productive as possible. Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re touring several different schools in one trip, they tend to blur together, so take notes and photos. Make sure to take the campus tour, but realize that student tour guides are paid by the university and are told what they may and may not say in response to certain questions. The marketing message that they convey may or may not be entirely accurate, so independently investigate any topics that interest you.  

If there are students on campus, you may wish to ask their opinions about aspects of the school. You may wish to inquire about such things as why they chose the school, what they like about it now and what they don’t, what campus social life is like, whether they’re able to register for courses they need when they need them, and campus safety.

Since you’re visiting the campus on a summer day, it’s difficult to visualize how busy the campus will be when school’s in full session. Also be mindful that, in most places, the weather in winter is much different. If you’re from a warmer climate, consider the campus in cold, snowy weather. But don’t let weather be the major factor in your decision about a school. 

You should avoid basing your impression of a school solely on your conversation with one student, one admissions officer, or one professor. Remember that no matter how engaging your tour guide may be, he or she should influence your impression of the school only slightly. Try to avoid making snap judgments based on single factors. Most importantly, try to keep thoughts about the probability of your admission to the institution you’re visiting separate from the impressions you’ve formed about the school. 

IvySelect is a premiere college admissions consulting firm specializing in Ivy League and other top-tier institutions. Our value to you starts with our strategic guidance, which is fundamental to our unique college consulting process . Our approach is based on an in-depth understanding of you, our student. With knowledge of your academic record, interests, talents, experiences, and preferences, we’re able to integrate your strengths into a core message that’s communicated consistently through all sections of your application and your letters of recommendation, essays, and interviews. IvySelect’s experts help you to develop and present a clear vision of the special attributes that will make you a compelling applicant to top-tier institutions.


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