You can only tell so much from colleges' websites and brochures. By spending time on campus, you can speak in person with an admissions officer as well as students and get a good idea of what academic and social life are like there. When it's time to choose a college to attend, you'll be better prepared to make an informed decision.
Arrange a Campus Visit
All colleges have admissions offices that can help you plan your visit. Your high school may organize group tours of nearby colleges. And you can plan your own informal visit to a college campus. Take these important steps first:
- Visit the college's admissions website to get details about arranging for an in-person visit.
- Check with your school counselor to see if any campus tours are scheduled.
- Set aside time to be on your own. Walk around the public area.
What to Expect When You Get on Campus
Campus visits can range from a quick hour to an overnight stay and from a casual guided tour to a formal presentation. Be sure to ask how long the whole visit will take so that you can be prepared.
Most campus visits will include the following:
- An information session, during which an admissions representative talks to you or your group about the college before the campus tour.
- A campus tour: These are usually led by college students. You'll see the main parts of the campus and have a chance to ask questions.
At many colleges, you can also arrange to:
- Attend a class.
- Meet with a professor.
- Meet with an admissions officer.
- Meet with a financial aid officer.
- Attend a club meeting or sports practice session.
- Eat in a dining hall.
- Spend the night in a dorm to experience student life.
Get Ready for Your Campus Tour
Before your visit, you need to prepare. It's a good idea to do these things:
- Explore the college's official website, and review any materials the college has sent you. This will help you come up with questions specific to that college.
- Make a list of questions to ask both staff and students. You can use our Campus Visit Checklist as a starting point.
- Explore the map of the college campus and make a note of where the admissions office is so you’ll know where you’re going. This will help ensure that you're on time for your visit.
When you're ready to go, remember to:
- Take notes in your phone or notebook so that you don’t forget the details of your collegiate trips.
- Take pictures so that you can remember what the campus looks like.
- Compare the colleges that you visit by using the Campus Visit Score Card.
What to Do if You Can't Make an In-Person Campus Visit
All is not lost if you can't visit in person. You can still:
- Check the admissions website to see if they have virtual campus tours or events.
- Talk to students who currently attend the college.
- Go online to see if the college has a newspaper you can read.
- View Campus Reel videos on BigFuture.
What should I take on a college campus tour?
When you visit any college, it's a good idea to take your smartphone or camera, notebook, and a small backpack. You'll want to make a record of your experience with pictures, videos, and notes. You may want a jacket or packable umbrella in your backpack to prepare for weather changes. Also, comfortable shoes are a good idea to avoid aching feet from taking the college tour.
What are 6 things you should do on a college visit?
One of the most useful things you can do on collegiate trips is to ask questions of current students. You'll likely get honest answers that will give you valuable insight into the school and its opportunities. Other things to do on a campus tour include:
- Visit the library.
- Visit classrooms.
- Ask an admissions officer questions.
- Take photos of at least three specific things you want to remember about the campus.
- Have a meal in the dining hall.
How do you prepare for college tours?
Before you visit any college, it's best to make a checklist of what you'd like to see. Try to include things on your list that you may not see on the typical college tour. Another thing to do is make a reservation to participate in a campus tour so that you can work it into your schedule for the day in advance. Put your items in your backpack the night before your visit so you have everything you need in one place.
What are good questions to ask on a college tour?
The best college tour questions tend to be about campus life. A few examples of good questions include: What is the typical class size? Do all first-year students live on campus? What are some examples of extracurricular activities? Do all students have access to an academic adviser? Where do students go to relax outside of class?
Are college tours worth it?
Yes, it's worth your time to take collegiate trips. Looking at a college's website and reading pamphlets can only provide you with limited information. When you visit a college, you get to absorb the atmosphere on campus and hear firsthand impressions from the students themselves. Plus, when you tour a campus, it allows you to imagine yourself as a student there. An in-person campus tour and your research at home should combine to give you a clear impression of the college.