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How To Make The Most Of Your College Visits

Whether you are just beginning to think about college or a #classof2020 student suddenly realizing just how close you are to the finish line, it’s important to understand how to make the most of your college visits. Having worked with hundreds of families for the past six years, I have seen a few repeated mistakes I hope to help you avoid:

– Visiting too many dream schools

– Cramming too many schools into one trip

– Visiting all the UCs

– Visiting schools at the wrong time of year

– Taking a tour and nothing else


Now that we’ve got the what NOT to do out of the way, let me explain what you should focus on instead. First, an optimal college visit involves much more than looking at buildings while a seemingly overcaffeinated and zealous undergraduate recounts random factoids about the school. By all means, sign up for a tour, but that should be an appetizer to an otherwise hearty meal of faculty meetings, sitting in on a class, speaking with current students and even interviewing if you can!


Contacting the admission department ahead of your trip can be a helpful way to both demonstrate your interest in the school and learn about which of the aforementioned opportunities to connect with the school at a deeper level might be available to you. Reach out directly to faculty (hint: many have publicly available email addresses on their department’s website), and ask to meet face-to-face for a tour of the department in which you hope to study.


Many times, you are also able to sit in on an actual class and see the learning environment first-hand. This can also be a great way to learn about different majors if you are undecided. Does your cousin, friend, family friend or 3rd cousin twice removed attend this school? If so, now is the time to connect on your favorite social media platform and ask to meet up for a quick coffee while you are on campus. Gathering the “behind-the-curtain”, real student experience perspective is invaluable.


Now, you may have begun to notice that most of the things I just mentioned are only possible while school is in session. That means the best time to visit is sometime during the school year either on a short break or a long weekend. It’s not always possible, but if you are able, try to make this happen so that you can connect with faculty and students on campus.


In terms of which schools to visit, try to prioritize any school that may be an early decision school. It’s hard to commit to a school sight unseen. Second, consider visiting a school or two that may be a low target or safety school for you—at least make sure your list of schools is not comprised entirely of dream schools. Familiarity breeds affinity: the schools you visit are schools you will likely feel more drawn to anyways. You don’t need to add more fuel to the “dream” fire unless you are strongly considering applying early.


Finally, consider which of your schools weigh demonstrated interest in the admission process so that you maximize the impact of your visit. The first goal of a college visit is always for you to gauge whether the school is a fit, but it is also helpful to sort out which schools you need to visit before you apply and which you can visit after decisions are released.


Happy Traveling!   

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