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College Planning

When to start visiting college? [Tips for an effective campus visit]

Written by Shefali Sundram

Updated on: 31 Jan 2024

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You’ve searched college websites and brochures. Still, you have a long list of colleges and you are feeling confused about which one is the right pick for you. It’s like getting stuck on an interstate highway that you have to cross to get to your destination. 

That’s where the magic of a campus visit comes in. It’s a bit like test-driving a car – you know the specs, you’ve seen the pictures, but nothing can beat the real experience. It’s not until you’re actually behind the wheel that you truly understand if it’s the right fit or not.

Stepping onto a college campus can be just that – a real, tangible experience. It often turns your neatly ranked college list upside down. Getting a feel, an atmosphere, something that just can’t be captured online is the main focus. 

This blog will discuss the best times for college visits. It will also offer strategies to maximize the value of your campus tours.

Why is it important to visit colleges before admission?

Visiting colleges is a crucial role in the college selection process for students.

It gives students a chance to see more than just brochures and websites. They can experience the campus and really understand what each college is like.

  • Visiting colleges gives a chance to explore the campus atmosphere
    • When students step foot on campus, they can feel the energy, culture, and overall vibe of the institution. This helps them decide if they feel comfortable and connected to the campus. It helps them make an informed decision about their future education.
  • College visits allow students to evaluate the facilities and resources available
    • Visiting the campus lets students see the libraries, laboratories, dormitories, and other amenities in person. Websites and brochures only provide information about these facilities. Students can choose colleges that match their academic and personal needs. They can find the tools and resources they need to succeed. This assessment helps them make informed decisions.
  • Visiting colleges enables students to interact with faculty and current students
    • They can attend classes. They can meet professors. They can engage in conversations with students who are already enrolled. Prospective students can learn about the college community by talking to professors and students. They can get a sense of the academic environment, teaching styles, and level of engagement and collaboration. These interactions help students decide if the college is a good fit for their academic goals. They also help them figure out if they would feel supported and inspired during their time in college.
  • Visiting colleges also allows students to validate their research and impressions
    • Online resources have a lot of information. Visiting the campuses helps students see if their first impressions are true.It allows them to see if the college lives up to its online representation and if it aligns with their expectations and aspirations. By experiencing the campus firsthand, students can make well-informed decisions. They’ll have reliable information, reducing the risk of surprises or regrets later on.

When you can visit colleges?

Freshman and Sophomore Year

In the first two years of high school, students can start preparing for college visits and exploration. College may seem far off, but the early years are a good time to start planning for future education.

1. Explore general interests and potential career paths

Freshman and sophomore years are a time for students to explore their interests and potential career paths.

By taking a variety of courses and engaging in extracurricular activities, students can begin to identify their passions. They can also find areas of academic focus.

This process is crucial as it helps them align their college choices with their desired academic and career goals.

2. Attend college fairs and information sessions

College fairs and information sessions are excellent opportunities for students to gather valuable information about different colleges.

These events bring together representatives from various institutions, allowing students to ask questions, learn about different programs, and explore options that match their interests.

Attending these events early on exposes students to a wide range of colleges and helps them gain insights into the admissions process.

3. Engage in virtual college tours and webinars

In the digital age, virtual college tours and webinars have become popular alternatives to in-person visits.

Students can use these resources to explore colleges remotely. They can gain an initial sense of campus life, facilities, and academic offerings.

Virtual tours and webinars provide a glimpse into college environments. This allows students to start narrowing down their list of potential colleges. They can do this even before visiting in person.

Engaging in these activities during early high school years allows students to start shaping their college preferences. It also helps them refine their goals.

It allows students to develop a better understanding of what they are looking for in a college. It also helps them make informed decisions about the types of colleges they want to explore further.

Junior Year: Fall Semester

As students enter their junior year of high school, the college selection process begins to intensify.

The fall semester of junior year is a critical time for refining college choices. It’s also a time for delving deeper into the research and evaluation phase.

The fall semester usually starts in mid to late August or September.

By this time, students should start doing the following things:

  • Narrowing down the list of potential colleges

By the fall semester of junior year, students should start narrowing down their list of potential colleges.

They can evaluate factors such as academic programs, campus culture, location, size, and other criteria that are important to them.

This involves researching colleges more extensively, reading reviews, and seeking insights from college counsellors, teachers, and peers.

By narrowing down the list, students can focus their attention on colleges that align with their academic and personal aspirations.

  • Scheduling college interviews if required

Some colleges may require or offer the option of interviews as part of the application process.

During the fall semester of junior year, students can schedule interviews with admissions representatives or alumni of the colleges they are considering.

Interviews provide an opportunity for students to showcase their strengths, express their interests, and gain more personalized insights about the college.

It is important to check the specific requirements and recommendations of each college regarding interviews and plan accordingly.

  • Participating in virtual college visits and information sessions

Virtual college visits and information sessions continue to be relevant during the fall semester of junior year.

Many colleges offer virtual options, including online tours, webinars, and live information sessions.

Students can take advantage of these resources to explore colleges further, learn about specific programs, ask questions, and engage with current students and faculty.

Junior year: spring semester

As the spring semester of the junior year arrives, students should focus on planning visits to local colleges. They should also attend college open houses and preview days. Plus, they should connect with current students or alumni for firsthand insights.

The spring semester for the junior year usually starts in January. In this phase, students gain a deeper understanding of the colleges on their list. They also further check their potential fit.

So, by this time, students should start doing the following things:

  • Planning visits to local colleges during spring break or weekends

Spring break and weekends are great times for students to visit local colleges.

By scheduling these visits, students can experience the campus atmosphere. They can also explore the facilities, and engage with faculty and students.

Plan ahead, make appointments for campus tours, and inquire about any specific events or activities during the visit.

  • Attending college open houses and preview days

Many colleges organize open houses and preview days specifically designed for prospective students.

These events offer a comprehensive overview of the college. They include information about academic programs, campus resources, and student life.

Attending such events allows students to immerse themselves in the college environment. They can attend sample lectures and interact with faculty, staff, and current students.

  • Connecting with current students or alumni for firsthand insights

Students should seek opportunities to connect with current students or alumni of the colleges they are considering.

This can be done through campus visits, online platforms, or networking events.

Speaking with individuals who have firsthand experience with the college can provide valuable insights into the campus culture, academic rigor, extracurricular opportunities, and overall student experience.

Senior Year: Early Fall

As senior year begins, students must focus on finalizing their college list. They should also schedule visits to out-of-state colleges and attend college-specific events.

“Early Fall” refers to the period between August and October. This stage marks the culmination of the college selection process. It involves making important decisions about where to apply and potentially enroll.

So, by this time, students should start doing the following things:

  • Scheduling visits to out-of-state colleges

If you’re considering colleges outside your home state, early fall of senior year is an ideal time to plan visits to those institutions.

Virtual resources are valuable. However, Visiting the campus helps you understand the college better.

It allows students to explore the campus, meet faculty and students, and gain insights into the surrounding community.

Scheduling visits in advance ensures students can make the most of their time on campus. It also helps them take advantage of any college-specific events or information sessions.

  • Finalizing the college list

Early fall of senior year is the time to solidify the college list. Students should review their options, consider their preferences, and evaluate the feasibility of each college.

Factors such as academic programs, campus culture, location, financial aid, and personal aspirations should be taken into account.

It is important to seek advice from counsellors, teachers, and mentors. This ensures that the final college list is well-balanced and aligns with the student’s goals.

  • Attending college-specific events, such as overnight stays or classes

Many colleges offer special events for prospective students. These may include overnight stays or the chance to attend classes.

These events allow students to experience the college firsthand. They can immerse themselves in campus life and get a taste of the academic rigour and social atmosphere.

Attending these events can provide valuable insights. They go beyond traditional campus tours or information sessions.

Senior year: late fall and winter

As the final year of high school progresses, senior students should focus on submitting college applications. They should also use virtual resources for more college research. And revisit their top college choices for a more in-depth look.

“Late Fall and Winter” refers to the period between November and January. This period is crucial for completing the application process. It’s also crucial for gathering more information and making final decisions.

So, by this time, students should start doing the following things:

  • Submitting college applications

Late fall and winter of senior year is the time to submit college applications. Students should review the application requirements and deadlines for each college on their list.

To apply, gather important documents like transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays. Make sure they are finished and sent in by the deadline.

It is important to stay organized, follow instructions closely, and take advantage of available resources and support from counselors or teachers to ensure a smooth application process.

  • Utilizing virtual resources for additional college research

Virtual resources play an essential role in gathering more information about colleges.

Students can use college websites, online forums, virtual tours, and information sessions. They can gain insights into academic programs, campus life, and student experiences.

Explore social media platforms. Connect with current students or alumni. This will help you understand the college community better.

Virtual resources provide a valuable alternative when in-person visits may not be feasible.

  • Revisiting top choices for a more in-depth look

Seniors should revisit their top college choices for a more in-depth evaluation during the late fall and winter months.

This can involve scheduling follow-up visits to campuses. It can involve attending open houses or information sessions. Or, engaging in conversations with faculty, staff, and current students.

These visits allow students to confirm their preferences. They can ask specific questions and gain a deeper understanding of the academic and social opportunities at each college.

Revisiting top choices helps solidify decisions. It ensures the colleges align with their expectations and aspirations.

How to schedule your campus visits?

Schedule your campus visits

Why is it important to visit colleges before admission?

Planning and scheduling your campus visits is key. It maximizes your college exploration journey.

So, you can consider the following ways to schedule your campus visits:

Considering academic calendars and breaks

When scheduling campus visits, it is important to consider academic calendars and breaks.

Check the college’s academic calendar to find out when classes are in session. This will help you visit the campus on a regular school day.

It is also advisable to consider breaks, such as holidays or spring break. These may affect the availability of tours, information sessions, or the ability to meet with faculty and staff.

Contacting admissions offices for availability

To schedule campus visits, we recommend contacting the admissions offices of the colleges of interest.

Admissions offices can provide information on available visit dates and campus tours. They can also tell prospective students about any additional events or programs they can take part in.

They can also guide making the most of the visit and answer any specific questions or concerns.

Planning multiple visits in a single trip

To optimize time and resources, it is beneficial to plan multiple campus visits in a single trip.

This approach allows students to visit colleges in the same geographical area and make efficient use of their time.

By planning and coordinating schedules, students can arrange visits to different colleges over a few days or a week.

This strategy can also provide a comparative perspective. It allows students to directly compare different campuses and make more informed decisions.

Considering factors like weather, campus activity, and class schedules

When picking a date for a campus visit, it is essential to consider various factors that can enhance the experience. One crucial factor is the weather.

Weather conditions can affect the visit. You should pick a date with good weather to explore the campus and surrounding area. It depends on where you are.

Additionally, it is important to consider the campus activity. This helps to get a sense of the college’s vibrancy and energy.

When prospective students visit the campus while classes are in session, they can see how busy and active it is. This gives them a better idea of what daily life is like.

Knowing class schedules can help you plan your visit to attend a class or meet faculty members. This allows students to engage with the academic environment. Checking for special events or college-specific programs

To schedule a campus visit, check for any special events or programs specific to the college.

Many colleges offer specific visit programs. These include open houses, information sessions, or overnight stays. These programs are for prospective students.

Attending these events provides valuable insights into the college’s culture, academic programs, and student life.

Events like career fairs, guest lectures, and performances can show what the campus community is like.

To find out about upcoming events, visit the college’s website or contact the admissions office. They can help you find events that match your interests.

After you’ve been accepted

Many colleges invite accepted applicants to visit their campus for a few days before May 1. May 1 is the reply date.

We do this to encourage them to enroll in their college. It is a great opportunity for you to compare the colleges that have accepted you in detail.

Scheduling revisit days or admitted student events

Once you have received acceptance letters from colleges, it is important to consider scheduling revisit days or attending admitted student events.

These opportunities let you further explore the colleges that accepted you. They can help solidify your final decision.

Colleges organize revisit days and admitted student events. They provide an in-depth experience for admitted students.

You can attend information sessions. You can interact with students and faculty. You can explore campus facilities and learn about the college’s community during these events.

Attending an admitted student event or scheduling a revisit day can be very valuable. It can help you envision yourself as a part of the college’s environment.

Tip: It’s a good practice to note down your campus visit dates when making a college list.

Tips for utilizing the opportunity to connect with potential classmates and professors

When attending revisit days or admitted student events, take advantage of the opportunity to connect with potential classmates and professors.

Talk to other admitted students to learn about their interests, experiences, and perspectives.

Building connections with your future classmates can provide a support network. It can also contribute to a smoother transition into college life.

Additionally, try to connect with professors or faculty members in your intended field of study.

Discussing academic opportunities, research programs, or potential mentorship can help you gauge the department’s strengths. It can also help you gauge the faculty’s accessibility.

These interactions can provide valuable insights into the academic and social aspects of the college. They can also help you make a more informed decision.

When not to visit a college?

Choosing the right time to visit colleges is crucial. Knowing when to avoid peak visit periods is just as important.

To ensure a vibrant campus experience, it’s important to check with each college. This will help you avoid visiting when the campus is empty.

You can reach out to the college directly. Alternatively, check their website’s academic calendar. Find out when breaks, reading periods, and exams are scheduled.

You can also consider the following point to make your decision of when not to visit:

To avoid peak visit periods, people should prioritize not visiting overcrowded campuses.

When planning a college visit, be mindful of peak visit periods. Campuses tend to be overcrowded then. These periods often coincide with major holidays, school breaks, or weekends.

During such times, campuses may be bustling with a high number of visitors. It can be hard to fully experience college and connect with faculty, staff, and students.

Large crowds can also limit your ability to explore campus facilities. They can also limit your ability to ask questions at information sessions. They can also limit your ability to ask questions during tours.

To ensure a more personalized and meaningful visit, avoid these peak periods if possible.

Considering alternative options like virtual tours or connecting with current students online

If it’s not possible to visit during peak periods, consider alternative options. If you prefer a more flexible approach, consider alternative options. These could include virtual tours or connecting with current students online.

Virtual tours let you explore the campus online. You can see the facilities and join interactive sessions.

Many colleges offer virtual information sessions, webinars, or virtual reality experiences. These experiences allow you to get a sense of the campus from the comfort of your home.

You can also connect with current students or alumni online. They can give you helpful information and personal stories. This will help you understand the college better. You will learn about the atmosphere, academics, and student life.

When it comes to campus tours, the earlier you start, the less stressed you will be.

Starting campus tours early in the college visiting process reduces stress. It also gives you enough time to research. You can make careful decisions about the college that is the best fit for you.

Benefits of starting the college visit process early

When it comes to planning campus tours and visits, starting the process early offers many benefits for prospective students.

Start the college visit process early. This will let you explore many colleges and universities. It will also give you more options and help you understand what each institution offers.

You can identify your personal preferences. These include location, size, academic programs, campus culture, and other activities.

Start early. This gives you more time to research and make a good list of colleges that match your interests and goals.

Allowing sufficient time for thorough research and decision-making

Starting the college visit process early gives you enough time to do thorough research and make informed decisions.

You can use college search tools and websites. They give you detailed information about colleges. This includes admission requirements, majors, campus facilities, and student organizations.

You can also ask your high school counselors, teachers, and classmates for advice. They can give you helpful ideas and suggestions based on what they’ve experienced.

Fit in college visits in your spare time

Make the most of your spare time. Fit in college visits during weekends, holidays, and school breaks. This ensures you have ample opportunities to explore potential campuses.

Making use of weekends, holidays, and school breaks

When you plan college visits, it’s important to use your spare time wisely. Schedule visits on weekends, holidays, and school breaks.

These periods provide opportunities for extended visits without conflicting with regular academic commitments.

On weekends, you can experience the campus atmosphere. Students are there and doing activities.

Winter break and spring break are longer periods for more thorough visits. During these breaks, you can do several things. You can attend information sessions. You can take campus tours. You can meet with faculty or current students. You can also explore the surrounding area.

Balancing college visits with other commitments and responsibilities

It is important to fit in college visits during spare time. It is also crucial to balance these visits with other commitments and responsibilities. Students have many obligations. These include academic coursework, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and family responsibilities.It is essential to plan college visits strategically to minimize disruption to your daily routine.

When scheduling visits, think about your workload, important deadlines, and personal commitments. This will help you focus on your current responsibilities and the college visit.

Effective time management and communication with teachers, employers, and family members can help you find the right balance between college visits and other commitments.

Finding the right fit

To find the right college for you, it’s not just about academics. Visiting campuses is important. You can see things like the atmosphere and community of the campus. These things will affect your education.Emphasizing the importance of visiting campuses to assess fit

Visiting college campuses is crucial for choosing the right college. It helps determine if a college is a good fit for you.

Researching online can give you valuable information. But visiting the campuses in person lets you experience the atmosphere firsthand. It also helps you get a sense of whether you can see yourself thriving in that environment.

Visiting the campus gives you a chance to meet people at the school. You can also see the buildings and talk with teachers and students.

It’s during these visits that you can assess if a college aligns with your personal values, goals, and aspirations.

Considering factors beyond academic programs, such as campus atmosphere and community

Finding the right fit involves considering more than just academics.

When visiting colleges, pay attention to the campus atmosphere and community.

Watch how students interact. Observe the level of support and engagement, and the atmosphere of the campus.

Consider whether the college fosters an environment where you feel comfortable. Are you inspired and motivated to learn and grow?

Think about the extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations available. Consider whether they align with your interests and passions.

Remember that the college experience extends beyond the classroom. It’s crucial to find a campus that offers a supportive and vibrant community. The community should suit your preferences and values.

Choosing the right colleges to visit

Preparing for college visits is an essential step in the college selection process.

Before visiting any college, make sure to research the colleges you are interested in. This involves

1. Identifying your personal preferences

When creating a list of colleges, begin by figuring out what you personally prefer. Think about things like where it is and how big it is. Consider the programs it offers, the activities you can do outside of class, and anything else that matters to you.

These preferences help you narrow down your search. They also help you create a list of colleges that meet your criteria.

2. Utilizing college search tools and websites

To aid in your research, you can use college search tools and websites. For example, CollegeBoard, Naviance, and BigFuture.

These resources provide information about colleges’ admission requirements, academic programs, student life, and other relevant details.

You can also use these tools to explore different colleges, compare options, and gather relevant data. It will help you make a decision.

3. Seeking recommendations

Seeking recommendations from school counselors, teachers, and peers can be valuable in the college research process.

These individuals can provide insights based on their experiences and knowledge of your strengths and interests.

Collecting multiple perspectives can help you gain a well-rounded understanding of the colleges you are considering.

Overall, preparing for college visits through thorough research helps students to make informed decisions about which colleges to visit and further explore.

By understanding their preferences, utilizing available resources, and seeking recommendations, students can ensure that their college visits align with their goals and increase their chances of finding the perfect fit for their higher education journey.

In summary

Finding the right college is a big step and visiting colleges at the best times can really help you decide. It’s smart to start looking at colleges early, like in your first or second year of high school. This gives you plenty of time to see different colleges and figure out what you like.

Plan your college visits for times when you’re not too busy, like during spring breaks or weekends. This way, you can focus on visiting college and not worry about missing school. Going to college open houses is also a great idea. These events let you see what college life is like and you can meet teachers and students.

It’s also good to think about the best times to visit colleges. Some colleges have special events that can give you a better idea of what it’s like there. And don’t forget to consider the weather. Visiting a college in nice weather can make the experience more enjoyable.

Remember, the key to finding the right college is good timing. Start your search early, use your free time wisely, and pick the best times to visit. By visiting colleges at the right times, you’ll have a better chance of finding the one that’s just right for your future. This way, you can be excited about where you’ll go to college and what you’ll learn there!

Tip: To keep track of when to visit a college you should use a College Spreadsheet. Download the College Spreadsheet template.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best time to visit colleges?

The best time to visit colleges is typically during the junior and senior years of high school.
The junior year provides an opportunity to start researching colleges, narrowing down options, and participating in virtual visits and information sessions.
As the senior year begins, it’s important to finalize the college list and schedule visits to out-of-state colleges.
Early fall of senior year is ideal for campus visits, as it allows you to experience the campus atmosphere and attend college-specific events.

When should you start focusing on college?

It is recommended to start focusing on college during the early years of high school.
Freshman and sophomore years provide an opportunity to explore general interests, potential career paths, and attend college fairs and information sessions.
During junior year, the focus intensifies as you narrow down potential colleges, schedule visits and interviews, and participate in virtual college visits and information sessions.
The senior year marks the finalization of the college list, submitting applications, and utilizing virtual resources for additional research.

Is sophomore year too early to visit colleges?

No, sophomore year is not too early to start visiting colleges.
Visiting colleges during the sophomore year can provide valuable insights into different campus environments, facilities, and academic programs.
It allows students to start exploring their preferences and gain an early understanding of what they may be looking for in a college.

Does visiting a college increase your chances of getting in?

Visiting a college alone does not directly increase your chances of getting admitted.
College admissions decisions are primarily based on factors such as academic performance, standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement, essays, and letters of recommendation.
However, visiting a college can still have indirect benefits. Some colleges track demonstrated interest, and visiting can be seen as a positive signal of your interest in the institution.

How can I increase my chances of getting accepted?

To increase your chances of getting accepted to colleges, consider the following strategies:
1. Focus on your academics
2. Prepare for standardized tests, like SAT or ACT exams
3. Engage in extracurricular activities
4. Craft a compelling application
5. Research colleges thoroughly
6. Showcase your unique qualities
7. Visit colleges and attend information sessions

Written by by

Shefali Sundram

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