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The college search process is certainly a daunting venture. Unfortunately, deciding which colleges to visit is one of the most challenging parts of this already exhausting journey. However, with some background knowledge about each institution and some advanced planning, it is easy to determine which colleges you should visit! College visits can be incredibly valuable. They're a great way to learn more about the college, but also can help show demonstrated interest.
If you’re just starting to think about visiting colleges, you’ve come to the right place! Typically, students will begin taking trips to colleges during their junior year of high school (or sometimes the summer before). In order to figure out what schools you should visit, consider talking to a school guidance counselor or utilizing an online college search tool. Naviance’s Super Match and College Board’s College Search are amazing resources that can help you consider various aspects of a college, from degree programs to affordability.
Before you decide to visit any college, you should do some research to find out if the college you are considering visiting offers programs in a field you are interested in studying. Even if you don’t know the exact subject you would like to pursue a degree in, maybe you love and excel in science. If that’s the case, make sure the college has a strong STEM program. You wouldn’t want to visit a small liberal arts college with the intention of majoring in aerospace engineering; that would likely be a waste of your time!
Once you’ve figured out whether the college meets your academic expectations, consider the social life on campus. If you know the college you want to visit is a commuter school with little going on after 5pm, but you’re looking to dorm and consider nightlife important to you, you might not enjoy spending four years there. If you’re interested in Greek life, be sure to look into the fraternities and sororities on campus. There are various types of fraternities and sororities to join at many schools, including those focused on community service, so think about which might interest you the most. Speaking of community service, if you love to volunteer, find out how you might be able to get involved in helping out on campus or in the surrounding area. Universities often have organizations that are dedicated to helping the larger community.
Don’t forget to research the clubs and activities that the college you are looking to visit offers. You likely joined multiple clubs in high school because you were interested in or enjoyed what they were all about. If you think you might want to continue with the clubs you’ve joined, see if the college has its own chapter or version. And never be afraid to look into new things too! Clubs are an amazing way to meet people who have similar interests as you! Finally, if you play a sport and would like to continue in college, be sure to find out if the college you want to visit has a team. Keep in mind that there are various “levels” of collegiate sports. If you’d like to play for fun, you can join an intramural or club team. If you’re looking to play competitively, find out what NCAA Division the college’s team falls under (Division I generally consists of large schools, while Divisions II and III are made up of smaller ones).
Location, Location, Location
Once you’ve figured out that the college you are interested in visiting meets both your academic and social expectations, it’s time to take a look at the location of the school. Do you want to spend the next four years in a lively urban setting? Or would you rather have that sprawling suburban campus? It may seem like a minor detail, but the location of the college you’re considering is important because you’ll likely be spending four years there! Additionally, think about how far away from home you want to go to college. Some people are okay with studying on the other side of the country; others would rather live within a five-hour driving distance of home. Maybe you would like to live at home and save money on room and board instead! You should definitely make sure that you would like both the campus setting and the distance from where you live before visiting!
Finally, make sure you take a look at how much the college you want to visit would cost you if you chose to attend there. Affordability is an extremely important factor in deciding on a school. While you probably won’t know what your financial aid package looks like at this point, it’s a good idea to research if the institution you want to visit typically provides enough aid to meet your needs. These days, tuition is skyrocketing, especially at large private universities, so cost is definitely important to consider when planning to visit a college.
No matter where you are in the college search process, you can learn so much about a school by going on a tour. Being there in person is truly the best way to get a feel for what the campus is like. Plus, you can meet face-to-face with an admissions counselor, departmental advisor, or athletic coach to learn more about the various programs the college might have to offer. Just remember, do your research beforehand and plan ahead. You will set yourself up for success this way.