Jul 14th, 2022

How to Know If and When You Should Visit a College

When you’re thinking about college, there’s a lot to consider. One of the decisions you’ll need to make is whether to schedule a college tour.

A college tour can be an illuminating experience. It helps to bring to light specifics you may have questions about. It also gives you a clear sense of what the campus is like.

College visits have many benefits. Considering the advantages of a college tour, you can make a more informed decision about the college that’s right for you.

What Is a Campus Tour?

Campus tours are organized visits to a college or university. They are structured activities in which visitors take a walking tour of various locations on campus. During the tour, student tour guides will share information about the college and answer questions.

During a college tour, prospective students and their families can see first-hand parts of the campus. They can also get questions answered about issues relevant to their college experience.

The tour will not visit every place on campus. However, typically a tour will focus on areas of high interest to students and families. Among the most common spots are dormitories, dining facilities, the library, classrooms, and labs. Student centers, athletic facilities, performing arts spaces, and historic locations are also frequent spots on a campus tour. Make sure to build your own college tour checklist before you arrive.

If you are unable to visit a campus in person, consider virtual college tours. Increasingly, colleges and universities are providing this option as an alternative.

Benefits of a Campus Tour

There are many benefits to choosing to go on a college tour. Here are some of the major advantages:

  • Seeing the Campus. This may be the most decided advantage of going on a college tour. You get to see the layout of the campus and where different buildings and facilities are. You’ll get a sense of how the campus is used. If you do decide to attend the campus, you’ll have a leg up on where things are
  • Get Detailed Answers to Questions. Do you want to get answers to questions that are top of mind in your college search? A campus tour is an ideal time to get answers to questions about academics, social life, dining, and housing. You will also learn about the community and what people love about being at the college or university. Your tour guide, other students you meet, and faculty and staff members are all available to answer your queries
  • Attend an Information Session. At most colleges and universities, the admissions office manages campus tours. Frequently, admissions offices hold information sessions as part of the campus tour. In these sessions, you are seated and hear a presentation by staff members and students. The information session provides details about the admissions and financial aid processes and some additional information about the campus
  • Connect with Admissions Staff. If you have questions about the admissions process, you may be able to speak with an admissions officer. Questions about the application, your grades and extracurricular activities, financial aid, standardized tests, and recommendations can be answered directly
  • Find Hidden Gems. Marketing materials and the college website are wonderful resources for you in deciding which colleges you want to attend. You’ll see amazing photos, hear from students about why they chose a university, and get access to detailed information. On a campus tour, you’ll be able to learn so much more. You’ll see spots where you might want to study and places you’d like to explore on your own. You’ll find hidden gems that confirm you want to attend a certain college or university. It’s a new perspective that provides more information to help you make an informed choice
  • Get a Feel for College Life. By seeing the students interacting with each other, you’ll get a sense of what college life is all about. You may be able to attend sporting events, lectures, performances, or other social activities as part of your campus visit. You may even be able to attend classes and eat on campus. Collectively, these activities illuminate the fuller extent of the college experience

When to Visit a College Campus

There is no perfect time to visit a campus and take a college tour. Many people start the college exploration process in their junior year of high school. Then, students can work with families and staff to narrow down the types of colleges they may want to attend.

There are many factors that go into deciding where to apply for college. You may want a certain part of the country to attend, either close to home or far from it. You may be attracted to certain majors or academic programs that interest you. You might also be interested in certain aspects of the university, such as its opportunities to compete athletically. There may be a musical ensemble you’d like to join or participate in a special program.

Narrowing down these options can help fine-tune your list of potential campuses to visit.

While junior year is a good time to start, other students wait until their senior year to explore. This approach compresses the timeline to learn about and apply but is very doable.

Other students choose to get an early start on the process and begin thinking about colleges in their sophomore year.

What Time of Year to Visit a College Campus

No matter when you start to plan your college exploration, consider college visits as part of the process. Having more time to plan trips to visit a campus is a wise choice. There are some times of the year when there are more options available to schedule a tour.

Each time has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Summer

During the summer, you likely have more flexibility to visit a campus. You will not need to miss school to attend and may have fewer scheduling conflicts.

Summer is one of the most popular times for students and families to visit campuses. Some college tour slots can fill up so it’s important to plan ahead.

The one downside to visiting a campus in the summer is that you’re not as likely to see as many students. While many universities hold summer sessions, these academic terms have far fewer students than standard academic years. There will not be many student activities in full swing and student-athletes will not be in season.

In addition, faculty members are far less likely to be on campus during the summer. This is an ideal time for faculty members to be doing research and writing or preparing materials for the semester.

Academic Year

Visiting during the academic year is a great time to see the campus in full swing. With students on campus and classes in session, you’ll get a full sense of the university. At certain times during the semester, activities will be different. For example, during the beginning of the semester, freshman orientation and the start of classes are busy times. In addition, during and just before finals, students may be studying intently, and finishing papers and projects.

The academic year is a great time to visit. It lets you take full advantage of what happens on a campus. You can see student clubs and organizations. You can see an athletics practice or contest. You can visit classes. You can eat in the dining hall.

Visits during the academic year likely coincide with your own studies and activities. Again, careful planning is the way to make sure you can visit when it’s convenient for you. Consider school holidays (though be sure to check that the college or university is in session). Your school may have schedules that make it easier for you to get away and not miss important activities.

Holiday and Other School Breaks

Holiday breaks are another popular time to schedule college and university tours. In many cases, these breaks will not coincide with time off on a college campus. However, be sure to check. There are certain times when students may not be on campus and tours may not be scheduled. Times to check on include Thanksgiving break, fall break and spring break. You can contact the admissions office to see if tours are scheduled during these times.

Another time when students often want to visit is during a winter break between semesters. While this may be a convenient time to visit, be sure to check with the admissions office. Some colleges and universities do not offer tours during this time.

Weekends

A weekend college visit makes sense. There are no high school classes to miss and you have the flexibility to travel. Most colleges and universities do schedule tours on the weekend. However, tour slots again may be limited so be sure to plan ahead.

Schedule a College Visit

The college visit is an exciting time. There is so much to see and absorb. When planning your college visits, you’ll have lots of flexibility. The key is to plot out what works best for you and your schedule. Then, you’ll want to align the timing with college tour availability.

A college tour is an ideal way to see more of the campus and get a sense of the fit. Schedule your college visit and see up close what the school has to offer.