Why should I visit potential colleges? Will it help me get in?

College tours and visits can be an incredibly valuable resource for gaining an understanding of a college. There are many other factors that determine a student’s success and happiness in college. It is important to consider what factors are important to you and research which schools are the best fit. Most students prefer to visit campus before deciding to apply for or accept admission to a given school, in order to get a feel for the academic and campus culture.

College tours and visits are not a conduit for admissions. Sitting in on classes and going on tours is helpful because you can observe the students’ engagement levels and professor’s lecture skills and get a sense of the campus, not because if you make a good enough impression a professor or tour guide may mention your name to an admissions officer (they won’t).

What if I’m interested in more colleges than I can visit?

You can–and should–apply to more schools than you visit. But when faced with a mountain of supplemental essays asking “Why are you interested in XYZ college?,” college visits can be incredibly useful both for narrowing that list and for cluing you in on what that school really cares about. Luckily, there are ways to get the same insight a college tour would give you. Check out www.campusreel.org to go on virtual tours of college campuses, guided by current students. You’ll be able to narrow your college list and ace the supplemental essays all without changing out of your pajamas.

How do I make the most of my college visit?

Information about a college’s size, cost, rank, and location can be found and considered without visiting the college. This information can be used to narrow your list of places to visit. During your visit, the most important factors to consider and to try to get a sense of are academic rigor, social life/student happiness, and research opportunities.

Some example questions you can ask in order to determine these factors are below. We recommend asking both the tour guide and, if possible, other students around campus. The student next to you when you sit in on a class or eat in the dining hall will likely be able to provide less scripted, more candid responses.

Academic Rigor

  • How difficult is the coursework?
  • How many hours a week do you spend per class and how many classes do you (and the student body) take on average?
  • Have you had a professor who has done research and if so, how did that help the class or your understanding of the material?
  • Are professors renowned? Are they accessible? Do students often go to office hours and if so, how useful are office hours for certain courses?

Opportunities

  • Are there opportunities for undergraduates to work more closely with professors, like writing a thesis or doing summer research?
  • How does the career office help the undergraduates?
  • What jobs are available to undergraduates on campus? Can an undergraduate be a TA? Can you give me an example of when a professor was able to help you outside of class?

Social Life

  • How do most students here meet their friends? What do students do for fun?
  • What kinds of events does the college sponsor, and do people attend?

If you want to get more in-depth with questions about social life, here are some questions to ask in order to get a sense of general well-being on campus.

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