Should You Ever Apply to a College Before Visiting?

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Visiting a college can tell you a lot about the school’s culture and whether you’ll fit in there. Many students visit every school on their preliminary list, but for some students, doing so may be difficult and costly. So, can you—and should you—ever apply to colleges before visiting?


The Pros


1. Saving Money


The biggest reason why a student might choose to wait to visit a college until after being admitted is the cost. Visits can be very expensive, especially when your list is long and contains many out-of-state colleges.



2. Investing in the Right Schools


You could also be wasting time on the wrong schools. This is, of course, why you should make sure to research each school before you visit. If you visit after being admitted, you know that you have the option of attending that school.


If you perform thorough research, you can probably gather together enough information through means other than visiting. Make sure to talk to plenty of current or former students, look online, peruse forum, and research through other vehicles. Learn how to research schools in Can’t Do a College Visit? Here’s How to Review Colleges Online.



3. Saving Time


Also, keep in mind that your college list will be shorter—and therefore less expensive and time-consuming to tackle—after you’ve been admitted. This means you can truly make the most of each experience by talking to professors, sitting in on classes, and experience the college firsthand.



4. More Meaningful Visits


You’ll likely have a more meaningful experience after you’ve been accepted as well. Often, colleges offer experiences such as overnight visits to admitted students, but not all prospective students.

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The Cons


1. Difficulty of Gauging Fit


On the other hand, it can be hard to gauge your fit with a college and determine whether you can truly see yourself at a school without seeing firsthand. If you wait to visit, you might end up applying to schools that aren’t a good fit.



2. Need to Demonstrate Interest


Furthermore, colleges want to see you demonstrate interest. You need to show that there’s a high likelihood that you’ll attend the college if admitted. This is important for yield, the ratio of students who attend to all those admitted. If you can’t visit, you’ll need to demonstrate interest in other ways, such as attending college fairs and talking to admissions representatives.



3. Inability to Get  a “Feel” for the School


You also won’t be able to get a sense of the surroundings of the college in question. In addition to the layout of the campus, a college visit should take into account the surrounding town, conversations with students and professors, and other aspects aside of the school aside from campus tours and orientations.



4. Shorter Time Frame


Finally, it might be overwhelming to leave all your visits until after acceptance. Visiting earlier allows you to spread out your visits over months and even years and enables you to narrow down your list earlier. If you wait, you’ll need to pack in several visits in a short span of time.


Other Factors to Consider


There are some other factors to take into account when deciding when to visit colleges including:


1. Fly-in and diversity programs


Fly-in programs allow a small number of diverse, high-achieving students to visit campuses. Colleges pay for their expenses, including airfare, room, and board. Some schools, such as Columbia University, enable qualified students to do so before they’re even admitted.



2. Other research


If you don’t visit before applying, make sure you visit each school thoroughly. Some research vehicles include eCampus Tours, which allow you to explore colleges virtually, and the College Board’s Big Future, which helps you organize your college planning.


Remember to talk to current and former students, go to college fairs, and speak to admissions representatives as well.



Should You Ever Apply to a School Before Visiting First?


Ultimately, it depends. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of your decision. Have you looked into all your options? Have you researched each school carefully? Do you have a good idea of your fit with each college? Are you able to connect with students at the colleges? How are you demonstrating your interest in the colleges on your list? These are considerations you should take into account when making your decision.


Whether you decide to visit before applying or not, do make sure to visit a college before committing to attending it, because you need to make sure it’s a place where you can truly see yourself.


For more tips, read:


Kick Off Your College Research This Summer With These Five Tips

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Colleges


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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.