College visits are an essential and (hopefully) exciting part of the admissions journey! Each and every college visit promises opportunities for students to interact with current students and faculty, to explore academic and extracurricular offerings, and to immerse themselves in the campus community and environment. By carefully planning a college visit, students ensure they get an accurate glimpse into college life that can help them make a more informed decision about their future.
The best time to start planning college visits is during the spring of your junior year. This will give you enough time to develop a clearer idea of your interests, goals, and top schools before visiting. While you can visit campuses throughout the year, it is common for students to plan their trips during school breaks (keep in mind that campuses may have a much different feel during summer than the regular school year). It can be helpful to start with nearby schools (even if they aren’t on your list) to get a sense of how college visits work and what you’re looking for in a school. After this, visit as many schools as you like and are able to fit into your schedule and budget.
Now, let’s talk about 5 key tips for a successful college visit.
1. Know what to expect
There are many different kinds of college visits. Most include an information session led by the admissions office and a guided tour. The typical tour is led by a current student and covers key areas of campus, including the library, an academic building, the student center, the dining hall, and a dorm. However, every college is different and offers different opportunities, so make the most of every visit! A&M hosts an annual open house called Aggieland Saturday, and schools like Johns Hopkins offer overnight visits.
2. Plan ahead
The best advice for a successful college visit is to prepare. Although walking around a campus may give you some sense of the school, it won’t give you a complete picture of student life, campus resources, and academic offerings. Start by visiting the school’s admissions office website. This is where you can sign up for tours and information sessions, connect with admissions counselors, and request more information. Some schools require reservations and these slots can fill up quickly (especially during breaks), so make sure you reserve your spot in advance. Click here to explore UT Austin’s Visit Campus page.
Planning also requires coordinating your travel arrangements (including parking) and itinerary. You want to ensure you know how to navigate the campus and leave yourself enough time to explore the school and surrounding area on your own. You may even be able to attend a class, meet with a professor, join a club meeting, eat in the dining hall, and more!
3. Do your research
Before visiting, you’ll also want to do research on the school and surrounding area. Remember to look beyond academics—think about social and cultural aspects as well. Check out student services (financial aid offices, career counseling, academic support, mental health services, etc.). Campus resources can have a major impact on student physical and mental health, academic success, and overall wellbeing. Keep track of what you find and craft specific questions for the info session FAQ and tour.
4. Ask questions
During your visit, the best thing you can do is to fully engage with your tour guide, admissions staff, faculty, and students. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get personal perspectives on the school and their experiences. Your tour guide is a great source of information and can give you insight into the realities of college life in a way admissions officers can’t. Here are some questions you might consider asking:
Why did you ultimately choose to attend this college?
What makes this campus special?
What are your favorite/least favorite parts of campus?
What is the reputation of [intended major]?
How easy is it to switch majors?
Are most of your classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
How many students are in each class on average?
Is it easy to access research and internship opportunities?
How helpful are your academic advisors?
Are there recruitment events on campus for jobs or other career services?
What is the social life like here? Are there specific activities that are popular?
How about the work/life balance? What do you do when you're not studying?
5. Take notes
Finally, don’t forget to take notes and pictures throughout your visit! You can take a small notebook or just use the notes app on your phone. Jot down answers to relevant questions, things you liked or didn’t like, specific resources and opportunities that interest you, your favorite places on campus, etc. Later, you can use these notes to help respond to school-specific essays. Don’t forget to pay attention to:
The size and location of your intended major’s building
The typical classroom and lecture hall
The condition and features of the dorms and common areas
The atmosphere of the library and other study spaces
The hours, cost, and offerings at different dining facilities
On-campus bus and bike routes and proximity to public transportation
Campus safety features
The gym, athletic facilities, and/or health center
A sense of the surrounding area and community
If you can’t visit a campus in person, don’t worry! Here are some great options to help you get a stronger sense of whether a school is a good fit for you and your goals:
Register for and attend virtual campus tours and information sessions
Reach out to admissions officers, faculty members, alumni, and/or current students for their perspective and to answer any questions you may have
Engage with campus media—subscribe to school and department newspapers, follow schools on social media, listen to school-affiliated podcasts, and more!
Contact the Berkeley2Academy office if you need further guidance! A B2A counselor can provide more advice on developing your college list, picking schools to visit, and how to make the most of tours, information sessions, and more.