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Maximizing College Visits: Tips for Informed Decision-Making 

By Martin Vaughn, associate director of college counseling
Guidance on preparing for college visits.
Deciding which college to attend is a challenging and, at times, stressful process for many prospective students. Finding the right fit is crucial. A campus visit is one effective method of evaluating if a college aligns with an individual’s preferences. While visiting every college on the list may not be feasible, prioritizing those that hold significance can influence the final decision-making process.

Before embarking on college visits, individuals should conduct thorough research. A quick website review will provide essential facts, avoiding surprises during tours or meetings with admissions counselors. Factors to consider include campus size, academic programs, athletics, fine arts and student organizations. Don’t underestimate the comprehensive web-based resources available, like information sessions and virtual tours (pre-recorded or live, self-guided or with a guide). These convenient options offer vital information and may help narrow the list of schools to visit. Given the finite amount of time and energy individuals have, virtual visits allow the exploration of options in advance.

What students need to keep in mind while visiting a campus:

  1. Take control of the visit. While family members may join the visit, it’s important to remember that the student will spend the next four years at the institution. Prospective students should actively engage throughout the visit, ensuring their questions are answered. While en route to campus is a great time to involve parents and guardians in the conversation.

  1. Maintain an open mind. The student must form their own opinion about the school. They may hear mixed reviews from others, but it is their decision about the right fit for them, especially if they are deciding between a large university and a smaller private college.

  2. Dress appropriately. Comfortable shoes are essential for campus tours, which can last up to an hour. Be sure to balance comfort and professionalism, as this visit is an opportunity to make a positive first impression on the admissions office and counselors.

  1. Connect with the admissions counselor. Establishing a relationship with the admissions counselor is vital. This person will guide the student through the college application process and may be the first to review their application.

  1. Explore academic aspects. If the college offers a program or major of interest, students should observe a class or meet with a professor. Understanding class dynamics and teaching styles and exploring options for undecided majors is essential.

  1. Ask tailored questions. While historical facts and building details are interesting, students can focus on questions about their interests and potential college experiences. Inquire about specific departments, extracurricular activities and student life to gain a personalized understanding.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If minor inconveniences arise, like a less-than-stellar cafeteria lunch, use it as a conversation starter and seek answers from the tour guide. Admissions counselors appreciate open dialogue about the visit, which may help address concerns.

  1. Show demonstrated interest. Colleges often gauge a student’s level of interest through interactions with the admissions office, application progress, or expressions of interest in professors, academic programs and clubs. Attending virtual or in-person events, interviews, and college fairs and connecting with admission ambassadors can showcase enthusiasm. Understanding what constitutes demonstrated interest is crucial. Touchpoints like tours, interviews, college fairs, and open houses all contribute to demonstrating genuine interest in the institution.


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