Making the most of your college visit

It’s one thing to research and read all about the schools you’re considering. But the best way to know if those colleges are a good fit for you is to visit them!

Books, websites, and YouTube videos can only show you so much about a school. But when you’re actually on a college campus, you can experience firsthand where you might live, study, sleep, eat, and socialize. That’s why we highly recommend you grab your parents, gas up the car, and hit the road!

Whether you get there by plane, train, or automobile, here are some tips to make the most of your college visit:

  1. Plan ahead
    First, connect with the admissions office well in advance to find out your visit options. Your visit might include a campus tour, an information session, and/or a special experience, such as sitting in on a class or even staying overnight in a residence hall. It’s a good idea to let the school know about your particular areas of interest (for example, basketball, history, musical theater); that way, the visit can be tailored to you.

  2. Do your research
    Learn as much as possible about a school before you visit (through guidebooks, the college’s own website, and social media, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook). When you already have the basics down, you can use your time on campus to ask specific questions about that new athletics complex you read about or to tour the art exhibit that’s getting all that buzz. And before you schedule your visit, check out the school’s calendar of events; you may want to plan your trip around a campus concert, lecture, or program of interest to you.

  3. Time it right
    We recommend you visit colleges during your junior and senior years of high school. Summer is a popular time to visit, but keep in mind that you won’t get a real feel for college life if you’re on campus when the students aren’t — and you likely won’t get to attend classes or events. That’s why we believe the best times to go are when colleges are in session, but high schools are on break. Check your calendar!

  4. Take notes
    You may visit 20 colleges, or you may just visit one. Either way, it’s surprisingly easy to forget details once you’re home. That’s why we recommend you bring along a smartphone to take pictures or videos and a journal. Take photos of impressive buildings and take note of significant interactions you have with students, faculty, or staff members. Write down your first thoughts on the campus atmosphere (was it friendly? quiet? crowded?) and note things about the campus that you liked (lots of smiling faces! great cafeteria food!) and maybe didn’t (too many students in classes! too many hills!).

  5. Follow up
    Once you’re home — or maybe on your way — take some time to reflect on your visit. Consider adding positive and negative thoughts to your journal and writing down any follow-up questions you may have. Then, take a few minutes to send notes or emails of appreciation to people who helped — and impressed — you during your visit (like your informative tour guide, the admissions counselor who led your info session, or that professor who met with you).

After each visit, we encourage you to log into your MyCoalition account to update your college list or even upload the notes (and photos!) you took on campus. While you’re there, check out some other helpful articles on such topics as researching colleges, preparing for an interview, and revising college essays.

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