Planning for college involves researching, drafting a school list, and visiting college campuses. Scheduling campus visits is a very important piece of making the final selection as it provides an idea for the feel of the schools and whether it is a good fit.

By Wendi Ostroff

    • Families often ask when the best time is to visit college campuses. This can be highly individualized based on a student’s schedule and what works for them. Fall and spring of junior year are favorable times because classes are in full swing and you can get a sense of what it is like on the campus when students are there. Summer time may be preferable due to family schedules, which is fine as many schools have summer programs and while you may not get the chance to sit in on a class and experience the college with a full set of students, you may be able to tie it into a family vacation.
    • The following are some practical tips worth noting about scheduling and planning your college visits:
    • 1. Schedule a tour in advance. While some may think just driving or walking around is sufficient, it really isn’t enough to learn about different programs and the academics going on. Usually, tours are hosted by students, and this provides an excellent opportunity for you to ask questions and get a feel for the “behind the scenes” information. Generally, you can register online for campus visits. If a school is too far or if you just want a snapshot of a campus, check out the schools website for a virtual tour.
    • 2. Make it fun- do some research in advance to find popular local restaurants or tourist attractions. Integrate college visits into family trips. This can also be meaningful 1:1 time for a parent to take their college bound student on a short trip together.
    • 3. Explore academic departments. If there is a subject or area of interest that you may consider majoring in, go visit that department and even sit in on a class. You can pre-arrange to meet with a professor if you plan in advance. Also, ask around at your high school to see if you can find a student with an older sibling who attends that school and who you might be able to meet and talk to.
    • 4. Check out the student center, a dining hall, and the library. While tours walk you through the main spots on campus, it’s worthwhile to spend a little extra time exploring the student center, or having a meal in the dining hall. The library is often near the center of campus and nice to walk through too.
    • 5. Talk to students around campus. When on campus, you are trying to determine if this school would be the best fit for you and what better way to do this than to connect with students. Ask them some general questions, directions, where they may live, their favorite eating spot, etc.
    • 6. Pick up financial aid information and any other additional information while on campus. Make the most of your visit and get all the information you want to help determine affordability, scholarships, housing, travel abroad or other topics.
    • Be sure to keep track of your visits and thoughts of each campus you visit. While you may not be able to visit all the schools you’re interested in, you can always request information and get on their list for dates of special events.
    • Enjoy this time and consider it a good learning opportunity, even if you do not end up at that college. What you learn during each visit could provide additional insight in to other schools you might be visiting and help you make the ideal choice.