Visiting colleges


Your student is probably doing a lot of research as they decide on which college fits them best. And there is one step in the process that they should take if they want to get a better idea of whether a particular school is right for them. It’s a step that many college students say was the deciding factor in choosing their college — taking a campus tour.

How to make the best out of your college visit

Visiting colleges is one of the best ways to help your student pick the right college for them. Local in-state colleges are the easiest to visit but it's also worth visiting out-of-state colleges if that's an option your family is considering. Your student can start figuring out what colleges to visit based on two things: what degree programs are offered by the colleges they are interested in and what environment your student will be comfortable in.

Most colleges offer both virtual and on-campus tours. Virtual tours provide an efficient way to get exposed to many colleges and universities. Your students should take a virtual tour first to help narrow down the list of schools to visit in person.

College visits might be most helpful when done before submitting applications in late summer or early fall to help narrow down options and focus application efforts on the schools your student likes best and is most excited about attending.

Touring universities in the spring after being admitted can help your student make that final choice and provides your family with the opportunity to ask student, faculty and staff specific questions.

Check the school's website for information on visiting and to sign up for an official tour, download a tour app or get materials for a self-guided tour. Student-hosted tours can also be found on streaming services and official university YouTube channels.

Whenever you decide to tour colleges on your student list, here are some things to do and questions to ask while you're there. Stop by the student union and residence halls. The student union is usually a campus hub and home to restaurants, a bookstore, and study and recreational areas.

Visiting residence halls will give you a glimpse into how your student will be living on campus. Your student will get an idea of the campus layout and how close they'll be to other campus buildings and services.

Explore academic departments. If your student has already picked their major by the time of their visit, they should make sure to drop by that specific college office. They can get to know administrators and faculty, ask questions about what to expect, and get familiar with the size of the department.

They should also visit any other departments they're interested in. If they're not sure what they want to major in yet, they can visit colleges they're interested in and ask questions about careers, programs and opportunities.

Visit with an admission representative or stop by the financial aid office. Get your family's questions answered by meeting with an admission representative to discuss admission steps, requirements and important deadlines. You might also want to stop at the financial aid office. Your student can let them know they're visiting, and ask if they offer any school or college-based scholarships and how they can find and apply for them online.

Talk to other students and families. Take some time to walk around the campus and explore on your own. Guided tours are great but you and your student should also visit places not on the tour route and talk to students and staff you meet along the way. This will give you an unscripted view into college life at that university. Talk to the tour guide. Put together a mental or written list of questions you'd like to get answered. Think of questions from a variety of topics like financial aid, student life, campus safety, academic support and graduation. Here's a short list you and your student can add to:

Do the majority of students live on campus?

What student perks are included in the cost of tuition?

What type of academic support services in addition to tutoring are offered?

How can I learn more about campus clubs and other activities?

Do you have an honors college?

On average, how big are lower-division and upper-division classes?

Many college students report that it was their college visit and tour that either sealed the deal for them or made them realize a particular college wasn't the best fit. Visiting colleges really is an important step in helping your student choose the college that's best for them.