With over 4,000 universities in the US, identifying your best-fit school can be a daunting task. Campus visits can play an important role in helping you to build your list and decide which colleges are right for you.

With colleges finally reopening their doors for guided tours in 2022, campus visit season is back in full swing this year. If you are considering or planning these visits, here are some top tips to help you make the most of them.

1. Start planning early

Many colleges are still trying to limit the number of visitors on campus, which means that the slots for guided tours and information sessions are filling up very quickly. Firming up your dates and itinerary as early as possible can help you to avoid disappointment – 8-12 weeks ahead of time is best.

If you are unable to sign up for a guided tour, check if the college offers a self-guided tour, since you do not need to sign up for these in advance, but can take them at your convenience, usually by downloading an app.

Also consider whether you would like to eat on campus, attend a lecture, or even stay overnight in a dorm. Not all colleges offer this, so it is worth reaching out directly to the admissions office if this is of interest to you.

2. Give each college the time it deserves

Don’t try to overcram your schedule with visits! Colleges typically offer a morning and afternoon program, each of which will consist of a one-hour student-led campus tour and a one-hour admissions officer-led information session. With this in mind, it is probably not realistic to visit more than two colleges per day.

It is best to budget more than two hours on each campus, in order to have enough time to explore independently before or after your tour, speak to current students, and generally get a feel for the atmosphere.

3. Research the college before your visit.

It is important to learn a little about the school before you show up. Browse through its website, familiarize yourself with its application requirements and identify academic departments that interest you. This will not only help you to prepare informed questions for your tour guide or admissions officers, but it can even help you to shortlist which campuses to visit. Virtual tour sites like Campus Tours.com, E Campus Tours, and YouVisit, for example, can act as a good first layer of screening. It is also good to research if there are colleges near the ones that you are planning to visit and consider including some of them on your itinerary. Not only will this make your visits logistically easier, but you might discover new schools that were not on your radar before!

4. Document the details of your visits

College visits are filled with information, which is why it helps to take

detailed notes as well as photographs and videos so that you can record all your impressions and observations. Be as detailed as possible about what you like and don’t like about the campus. You could even create your own ranking system, based on criteria that are important to you, whether that is the weather, dining facilities, school spirit, diversity and more.

Another detail worth noting down is the names of your tour guide, admissions representatives and any students whom you interact with. These seemingly small details can make a big difference when it comes to writing your supplement essays, especially if the school has a “why us” essay.

5. Try to interact with current students.

Students can give you a candid account of what campus life is like and so it is worth taking advantage of any opportunity you may have to speak with students, whether that is during or after your tour. Of course, this may not be possible, especially if you are visiting at a time when classes are not in session.

6. Check out campus bulletins

While a lot of campus newsletters and newspapers are now available online, bulletin boards are harder to replicate digitally and usually contain a wealth of information about on-campus activities and events. Look out for these boards in academic buildings, campus centers and dorms, as they could give you a good indication of what the social life and day-to-day energy is like on campus.

7. Don’t confine yourself to the campus ,

Exploring the vicinity in which the college is located can give you a sense of daily life there. Look for the nearest restaurants, grocery stores, and other amenities that you consider important. If you are someone who wants to be within a certain distance of a big city, you may want to hop onto the public transport and see how long it actually takes to get downtown. Alternatively, if you are someone who likes to be around nature, you may want to explore nearby hiking trails.

Regardless of the kind of campus that you think may be best for you, it is worth visiting a mix so that you can compare and contrast different environments before making this decision.

8. Don’t forget to say thank you.

Sending a thank you note or email to the people that you personally interacted with on campus, whether tour guides and admissions officers, is a great way to show demonstrated interest. This is a good opportunity for you to ask any follow up questions and keep the dialogue going.

There is no doubt that visiting colleges is a great way to get a first-hand feel of a campus and a gut-check on whether a school is right for you. But at the same time, you should not feel like you have to plan these tours, especially if it is a logistical or financial hurdle. There are several online tools and resources that can support your college research and help you to show demonstrated interest. For more information, you can refer to our previous post called
College Research in the Time of COVID-19.