10 Tips for Your Child’s College Visit
A campus visit is a long-standing tradition among high schoolers and an important part of the college applications journey. Offering information and insight not found in brochures, campus visits enable teens to chat with current students, eat in dining halls, visit dorms, and even attend classes. In fact, many students report that they don’t know if a college is a good fit until they set foot on the campus.
While campus visits are clearly important, families often struggle with the logistics. How many schools should your teen visit and when? How can you make out-of-town trips as affordable as possible? Read on to discover CollegeVine’s top ten tips for a successful college visit.
When Should Your Child Consider Visiting a College?
Choosing the right time for a college visit involves various considerations. Not only do you have to base decisions on your family’s schedule, but you also have to look at your student’s responsibilities with regard to coursework and extracurriculars.
So, when’s the best time to take that road trip (or flight) to an out-of-state school? It’s best to visit a school when class is in-session, since high schoolers will get a better feel of the campus atmosphere; they may also be able to meet current students and professors. Consider planning trips during the fall or spring of sophomore or junior year. Spring break is particularly convenient, because students won’t have to miss class. College spring breaks are often at a different time, so school should be in session. Whenever possible, students should visit schools before applications are due. That way, they don’t waste time or money applying to schools that they wouldn’t be excited to attend.
10 Tips for Making the Most of a College Visit
Wondering how to make the most of your teen’s campus visits? Check out CollegeVine’s tips for ensuring a successful school trip:
1. If finances are tricky, take a virtual tour, or consider diversity fly-in programs
Sometimes it just isn’t possible to visit all your child’s schools in-person, and that’s totally normal. Most families usually just visit a handful of out-of-state top choice schools and some nearby universities. For the schools you can’t make it to, consider touring them virtually. Harvard is just one of many schools that offer guided virtual tours you can take from the comfort of your living room. See spots like dormitories, classrooms, libraries, and even the dining hall. If you can visit in-person, you might even use this tool before visiting, to get a better sense of campus landmarks.
For high-achieving, underrepresented students, there are also diversity fly-in programs. Certain schools will pay for your student’s out-of-state visit (flights and all!) if they fall into this category. Students apply for these opportunities, and visits usually take place in spring of junior year, or fall of senior year. High schoolers get the chance to stay with a current student, participate in programming, and eat from the dining hall for free. See our list of popular schools that offer fly-in programs.
2. Set up travel fare alerts
If your student plans to apply to many out-of-state schools, you can cut costs by setting up flight price trackers for the cities where their schools are located. That way, you’ll receive an email when a low or “mistake” fare pops up. Popular search engines that offer this feature include Google Flights, Secret Flying, Hopper, and Kayak.
3. Add a tour to your family vacation
Planning a family vacation this year? Consider choosing a destination near one or more of the schools your child hopes to visit. For example, if your teen is looking at several schools in California, you could schedule a family trip to Los Angeles. Hit up Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo in between trips to UCLA and USC.
4. Start with a local school
One way to ease into visits is to start with a school close to home. Touring a nearby college gives students a chance to discover what factors are most important to them, such as living on-campus or attending a school with strong athletic culture. Once your child determines what’s important to them, they can re-evaluate their college list and remove schools that don’t make the cut.
5. Get social
Students can also use social media to research colleges and further refine their lists. Encourage your child to check out the Facebook and Instagram pages for their top-choice schools. Your teen will get a better sense of campus culture and learn about school activities.
6. Talk to students
Interacting with students in-person can be helpful as well. When you do visit campuses, aim to find a group of students that shares your child’s academic or extracurricular pursuits. For example, if your teen is passionate about writing, see if they can sit it on a creative writing course or meeting of the school’s literary magazine. If you can’t make the visit, try to find current students from your town that your child might be able to chat with. It’s crazy how connected the world is; you may be able to find a current student just by asking in your circles. Your student’s high school counselor should also know if there are any alumni now attending your teen’s dream school.
7. Assess the Culture
Finding a good fit is about more than academics. If you want to get the most out of your college visits, strive to get a sense of the overall culture of the school. Do students attend sports games on weekends? Do they participate in fraternities and sororities? Is there a strong musical theater presence? Tours are great for assessing what activities and events are popular at a given institution.
8. Meet an admissions officer.
No, meeting the admissions officer won’t guarantee preferential treatment down the line. However, it does enable them to put a face to the name on your college essay, and it also shows that you’re passionate about the school. Schedule an interview if you can; if not, drop by the admissions office and introduce yourself to whoever’s working.
9. Don’t forget academics
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun aspects of college, like student organizations and extracurriculars. However, students should remember to pay attention to each school’s academic offerings. Try to sit in on a class, speak to a student with your prospective major, or meet a professor.
10. Take notes
If your teen is visiting multiple colleges, it’s easy for the various tours to blend together. (Which school had the big dorm rooms, again?). If you want to keep the details straight, it’s wise to take photos and jot down your impressions immediately after the trip. Additionally, experts recommend limiting college tours to two a day so the experiences don’t blur.
Does your teen want access to expert college guidance — for free? When they create their free CollegeVine account, they will find out their real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve their profile, and get their questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Encourage them to sign up for their CollegeVine account today to get a boost on their college journey.
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