Has this happened to you yet? You’re thinking about building your college list, but then realize there are over 4,500 colleges and universities in the USA alone, and finding your best fit starts to feel like an impossible mountain to climb.
Time to talk about college tours. Bottom line: college visits are an important part of the college admission process.
Visiting a college campus is a critical part of choosing a college, as doing so provides firsthand experiences and insights that can help you assess whether a college offers the academic programs, campus environment, social culture, resources, and overall student experience that you want and need while you study in your chosen field.
But, why is it so important to do this and how should you go about it? Let’s take a look:
- Being there, in person, allows you to see the physical layout of the campus, visit the freshman dorms, academic buildings, residence halls, dining facilities, recreational areas, and other campus amenities. In doing so, you can gain valuable insight into not just those facilities, but the feel of moving between them, the efficiency of transportation options, the spaces you might use for study, meetings, recreational activities and more.
- College tours often include opportunities to interact with current students, such as through student-led tours or information sessions. This will allow you to ask questions about student life, academics, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of college experience. Hearing from current students can provide valuable insights and perspectives, helping you assess whether the college aligns with your interests, goals, and values.
- College visits may also include opportunities to meet with faculty and staff, such as through faculty-led presentations or meetings with academic advisors. This will allow you to learn more about the academic programs, research opportunities, and faculty expertise at the college. Building connections with faculty and staff can also offer you an inroad for colleges that consider Demonstrated Interest in their admissions process. It certainly doesn’t hurt later when you write your application essay and are able to say “During my visit to campus, I…”
- Culture and atmosphere are very difficult to discern from a website. College tours can provide a glimpse into the campus culture, which includes the values, traditions, and social dynamics of the college community. By observing interactions among students and experiencing campus life, you can get a sense of whether you feel comfortable and fit in with the campus culture and the social groups that form within it.
- Finally, let’s talk about resources. Your college visit is an opportunity to assess the resources available to you. Some important academic ones are certainly facilities like libraries, laboratories, sports facilities, career services, and other support services. However, it is just as important for you to evaluate the ones that will be personally important to you, your hobbies, interests and goals. Consider the following questions you might want answers to:
- What are the sports programs like, both to play and to spectate?
- How close will you be to off campus amenities that you want access to, such as the beach or mountain trails? What will your transit options be if you don’t have a car?
- What does your dining commons look like, and what will your options be to add variety to your meals?
- If you plan to rush, how does Greek life look? What are your options and how active a role do they play in campus life?
- What do the event spaces, the night life options and the club scene look like? Do you see things you want to engage with?
- Can you study abroad? What are the programs like?
- Do you see a level of diversity on campus that you are comfortable with?
- Where do second year students typically live? Is acquiring off-campus housing easy or competitive?
- Is there an Extension that offers non-credit activities that interest you? Do they offer all the dance, music and performing arts classes you could ask for?
To make a truly informed decision about your higher education journey, a collge visit is a fundamental part of your process. If touring a college in person is not feasible, many colleges also offer virtual tours or other resources that can provide valuable information about the campus and community.
The best college for you is the one that aligns with your unique interests, goals, and values. So take the time to thoroughly explore your options, and remember that there is just as much value in college visits that show you which colleges you do NOT want to apply to as those that show you which ones you do. Brand name, prestige, ranking and the desires of your peer group may be important influences, but nothing is more important in determining your satisfaction with four years of formative education than the feelings you personally have about the campus you spend them on.