College Visits 101 | Kaylee Kinninger

If you go online you may find a daunting list of questions to ask while on tours, but truthfully there is really no chance to ask all those questions. The first and most important question you should ask yourself is: can I imagine spending four years of my life here? Sometimes the answer will be “ehh”, sometimes a definite “nope”, and sometimes you will have this heart-pounding feeling and you will know the answer is “hell yes”. Having toured 20 schools, I can assure you that tours are a) exhausting b) overwhelming, and c) repetitive. So here are some ways to keep the energy alive after visiting several colleges, and how to even begin deciding where to tour and how to tour.

  • Try visiting schools after you have more personal data such as your standardized test scores, junior-year curriculum, and a more clear view on who you are as a person.
    • Making sure you have enough data to know whether you even have a shot of getting into a certain school is critical or you may end up wasting your time on four schools that are pretty much no’s. (I had those overly eager parents who dragged me around nine colleges during my sophomore year. I will ended up only applying to one of them).
  • Once you know you want to start visiting schools (most likely the middle of your junior year to the summer before senior year), you have to plan the actual road trip.
    • Pick schools in a certain area. They don’t have to be perfectly close together, but convenience can be a lifesaver. If you are going out of state, it’s best to pick a certain region and maybe a certain state. You can base this area on a specific school you know you want to visit and then visit other schools in that area or base the area on your preference of placement.
    • Try not overdoing the amount of schools you visit in one trip because you could become overwhelmed and tired, which will inhibit your ability to immerse yourself in the school.
    • Use Google Maps when choosing schools, especially if you are doing two schools in one day. It’s not fun awkwardly slipping into an information session because you didn’t realize the second school wasn’t that close to the first one.
    • Find hotels near the schools. This becomes utterly important especially if your plane gets in late and you have a tour at nine in the morning and don’t really know where to go.
    • Sometimes the obvious isn’t always the best match. Some schools may shock you, and you may fall in love with a school you never even knew existed because it wasn’t Stanford, NYU, or UCLA.
  • Once you know the schools, decide if you want to do both the information session and the campus tour. The information session gives information about the school and the admission process, and the campus tour gives you the chance to see if you can imagine yourself walking down the halls to your Middle Eastern Studies class.
  • While at the school:
    • Bring a notepad and pen because typing information on your phone may look bad for obvious reasons.
      • This is important because a lot of the times you will find out things about the school you may not easily find on the internet such as fun events they have, what they like to see on applications, and the overall atmosphere of the school.
    • Take pictures.
      • Sounds lame, but after visiting so many schools, they may start to blend and having pictures can help conjure feelings you had while walking around. Sure there are pictures online, but usually of just the prettiest building on campus and the campus from up above. Taking pictures of the cafes, classes, and surrounding areas ensures you won’t forget anything when application time comes around.
    • Wear comfortable shoes
      • My sandals broke while walking around Tulane. Talk about college visit horror stories. I had to walk barefoot to the nearest shop on the campus. Yes, humiliating. And I will never let that happen again. So I have given fair warning. Bring shoes that won't break.
    • Write down certain things that a student or admissions officer said that stuck out, or write down an interesting story or situation which occurred during your visit.
      • This will become helpful when it comes time to write college essays. Many colleges have the “Why ___” essay, and having some memory to write down about your experience will make you stick out.