Visiting colleges is one of the best ways to help your student pick the right college for them. Local 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.
Where to visit
There are a few ways to approach visiting colleges out of state that can make it more affordable. Talk with your student and select a few colleges of interest in the same state or general area. This way, you can fly (or drive) to the state and visit other nearby schools. You’ll also become more familiar with the area. Another option would be to travel to a distant school, perhaps one on the opposite coast, and see if that area appeals to your student in general. While you’re there, ask locals about nearby universities to get a feel for things like overall desirability, community reputation and student safety. Your student can also follow up by viewing a specific school’s online tour.
When to visit
College visits might be most helpful when done before submitting applications in late summer (while on family vacation) 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. Additionally, touring universities in the spring after being admitted can help your student make that final choice and identify previously unknown advantages.
Be sure to check the school’s website for information on visiting and to sign up for an official tour.
Whenever you decide to tour colleges on your student’s list, here are some things to do and questions to ask while you’re there.
Grab a student newspaper
Student newspapers are full of campus information. You and your student will be able to get a glimpse of what’s going on around campus. There might also be local city papers nearby that will help you get to know what the surrounding community is like.
Visit the financial aid office
A stop at the financial aid office is a must do. 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.
Stop by the student union and residence halls
The student union is usually a campus hub and home to a campus restaurants, a bookstore, and areas for studying and recreation.
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, and off campus amenities.
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 academic 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.
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, academics, academic support and graduation. Here’s a short list you and your student can add to:
How do I apply for university or college scholarships?
What financial aid tips should I know about?
Do the majority of students live on campus?
How far is the nearest hospital?
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?