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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

Get out and visit

Updated: Feb 9, 2023


A vital part of the college research process is the campus visit. You can only glean so much information from perusing websites and watching virtual tours. Nothing takes the place of the visceral feel of actually walking the campus, tasting the dining hall food, seeing first-hand the size of the dorm rooms, and, most importantly, interacting with staff and students face to face. The past two years have made this a difficult task to undertake, but luckily, we are now in a position where schools have opened their doors to visitors once again. Now, it's time to get out there and visit those schools you are interested in.

First and foremost is, to begin with a wide selection of schools. Explore various campus types and settings to help narrow your focus when creating your college list. It is important to stretch your boundaries at this point so you can confirm your likes and dislikes. Visit schools that are situated in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Visit large, mid-sized, and smaller campuses. Consider religious-based vs. non-sectarian schools. As far as distance, consider how often you will feel the need to "come home." If you live on the east coast, attending college in California may seem cool and appealing, but it's unlikely you will come home for friends' birthdays and family events unless they fall during one of your larger breaks. Conversely, attending college "in your backyard" will likely make it easier to maintain a "home life" and also make it easy for parents to visit (kids' opinions vary on this one!). It is important to consider all the facts when visiting and asking yourself, "can I see myself here?".

Another critical component of campus visits is planning. Nothing is less productive than just getting in your car and randomly showing up at a school. Strategically plan your visits and create an itinerary. Use Google maps or similar software to geographically plan your trip, factoring in hotels, meals, and distance between schools. Make sure to sign up with each school's admissions offices (links found on their admissions websites) for information sessions AND guided campus tours (don't forget about demonstrated interest!). Compared to a self-guided tour, these will allow access to important parts of the campus (dorms, dining halls, classrooms) that are must-sees! Lastly, do not neglect the surrounding areas. Schools are very good at showing you what they want you to see and steering you clear of any problem areas. Do your research here; campus safety should be a concern for all potential students and parents.

Do you have a specific major you are seriously considering? It is possible to try and arrange a meeting with a department head or representative to discuss your interest. This will take coordination to plan; you must be prepared with background knowledge and questions if you meet. Unlike the tours and info sessions, these types of meetings can backfire if you expect the representative to do all the talking. Similarly, if you are considering playing a sport, joining the drama department, or playing in the marching band, reach out and see if you can schedule a meeting to coincide with your visit.

If you plan and time things right, two schools a day is possible. It is very important to document your visit through notes and photos. This will help a few months later when trying to remember which school had that great salad bar and which had lousy parking. Remember, you are just looking, so try to keep the visit as light and stress-free as possible. If you are dragging younger siblings along, trust me, they will be bored, so make preparations to keep them entertained. Try to ask questions of both the staff and tour guides. Parents, feel free, if so inclined to ask random students their opinions too. This can embarrass your child, but it can also yield a wealth of information!

My last piece of advice comes from practical experience. As far as the campus bookstore is concerned, most schools will provide you with a discount coupon you can use after your tour. The swag is expensive, and the store format is geared to entice potential students to buy. It is easy to get carried away, but remember this, once your students decide where they are attending, all the sweatshirts from all the other schools will probably be discarded and never worn again. My advice, tell them when they decide, you will fund a small "shopping spree" . . . most likely, it will still be less expensive than buying something after every visit.

Expedition Admissions Consulting is here to help guide you through the college admissions process. Contact us for more information and to schedule your free, no-obligation Google meet to discuss what we can offer your student.

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