Campus Visits….Revisited

Posted on August 1st, 2022 to College Admission by

So I have written several blog posts about campus visits. Like this one hereand this one…oh, right, let’s not forget about this one too. With that in mind, I think this is a great time to revisit the subject, expand on it, and go a little deeper with it.

First things first. Let’s be sure we get on the same page with WHAT a campus visit actually is. It is any kind of experience where a prospective student has the opportunity to engage with a college/university and/or one of its representatives. Essentially we use it as an umbrella term that is meant to encompass in-person and virtual experiences. Things like high school visits, college fairs, campus tours and information sessions, open houses, and admission events/receptions. Regardless of the form they take, it is an invaluable tool in determining whether or not a school is the “right fit”. Why, you ask? Well here are just a handful of reasons:

  • You will learn unique insights about the school,
  • You can get a feel for the environment and community,
  • Demonstrated interest is used by many schools in the admission process,
  • You get an actual reference for how far away from home a school is,
  • You can find out for yourself how “good” the food really is,
  • You can expand your network by meeting students, faculty, staff, and admission officers

“I’m in 9th grade, I don’t need to visit colleges…”

Ummmmm….no. You can definitely get something out of a cursory college visit in 9th grade. While, I will concede that it is too early to be conducting a thorough evaluative college visit–there is still much you can learn. At this stage of the journey you should consider any college visit as strictly educational. You don’t even have to set up an “official” visit. Sometimes you can learn enough just by driving through or walking around campus. Look at participating in a summer enrichment experience (academic, athletic, music, etc.) at a college near where live.

However you decide to visit, focus on learning more about your likes and dis-likes are. Visit a state-school to see what that feels like; check-out a liberal arts school to see how that experience feels; stop by a large and small campus to see which you like better; swing by rural, suburban, and urban campuses to see which settings feel right to you. These questions (and many others) are often the most difficult for 11th and 12th grade students to answer when I ask them.

“10th grade is still too early to think about college…”

Maybe…I mean, who am I to tell you when it feels right to think about your college admission journey. Oh..right…I’m the college counselor. In all seriousness, this is one of the moments where I respond saying: “it’s hard to know what direction to go, if you don’t have a destination in mind”. Just as I mentioned in the 9th grade section, I don’t think you have to be ready to conduct evaluative visits and build your college list. That said, you can still glean quite a bit for yourself even as a sophomore. If you haven’t answered some of the questions in the 9th grade section, that’s a great place to start. If you have, focus on going deeper into defining fit for yourself:

  1. What subjects am I interested in studying?
  2. What kinds of classes do I do well in (lecture, discussion based, etc.)?
  3. Do I like being around a lot of people?
  4. Are there extra/co -curricular actives I want to continue pursuing?

My biggest recommendation would be to definitely focus on attending some kind of enrichment experience on a college campus. Often these kinds of programs will build in admission tours and information sessions–even if it doesn’t, you can set that up on your own by simply contacting the admission office. It’s a great way to going deeper into your interests/passions, and seeing how that connects to the college experience.

“I am going into 11th grade, and already I feel behind…”

Truth be told, this is normal. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I would be…well let’s just say I would be living very comfortably. I admit that this is not an awesome feeling, though it is very normal. I am sorry if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Best thing to do? Make a plan!

The reality is that you are not behind. You still have lots of time to conduct campus visit experiences. Here is a laundry list of things you can do:

  1. Pay attention to announcements from your secondary school counseling office about what colleges will be visiting (this is usually posted electronically too),
  2. If you have identified a specific college or 2, contact admission to find out how you can “visit” them,
  3. If you have defined fit for yourself, try to find 1-3 schools that match and contact the admission office to learn about “visit” opportunities,
  4. Search for enrichment programs on college campuses
  5. Attend a college fair

“I am a senior, should I still visit (…oh, and I still feel behind…)?”

Of course you should. It is never too late to visit a college. As I mention in the opening, this is a critical tool in determining where you want to apply and where you want to go. How you conduct your visit merely depends on where you are on this journey. If you are at the very beginning, then start at the beginning:

  1. Define your version of “fit”
  2. Complete a net-price calculator
  3. Find schools that match you definition
  4. Visit those schools (high school visit, college fair, virtual visit, admission event, etc.)

The important step for any 12th grader is to reflect on those visit experiences as you go. In my experience, students often start adjusting/honing their definition of fit after they visit a college.

Oh, and for the feeling of being “behind” in the process…it just doesn’t go away until it’s all done. Just take some deep breaths and keep moving forward!


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