Jul 28th, 2022

How to Know Which Colleges to Tour

A college tour is a great way to get a true feel for the character of a university. It allows you to connect with other students and faculty, and you can ask whatever questions you would like. It’s also an important part of choosing which college is going to be the right fit for you.

However, visiting colleges across the country can be time-consuming and expensive. To address this problem, you need to be strategic about which colleges to visit. Taking a tour of every school isn’t really an option, so you need to narrow down your campus tour list to just your top schools.

Deciding which schools are top contenders for you can be very difficult. It requires a lot of research and thought. It also requires taking a realistic look at your options based on a variety of factors unique to you.

You can use this guide as a starting point to start planning college campus tours. It will help you answer the ultimate question: “Where should I schedule a college campus tour?”

Choosing a School that Fits You

Before you can decide which colleges to tour, you need to create a list of top contenders. Once you are done with the process in this guide, you should have a list of between two to ten schools.

After going through your college tour, you can often narrow that list down further to between two and five schools.

Step 1: Determine Your “Must-Haves” in a School

To start this process, you need to decide what your list of non-negotiables may be. Some ideas on these items might include:

Must-haves for your friends may not be important to you and vice versa. Be sure that your “must-have” list includes things that actually matter to you, regardless of what your friends are doing. Your career counselor and family can be great resources to help you with this list.

You might also have a list of “wants” as well. These items are things that would be nice to see at your school, but they aren’t really required.

It can be difficult to decide what is a “need” and what is a “want.” This process may require some pretty serious self-reflection.

For example, perhaps you really want to be on an Intramural volleyball team. This item would be nice, but it won’t have a huge impact on your ultimate decision. We’ll talk more about your want list later in this process.

Step 2: Research Schools That Meet Your Criteria

Once you have your non-negotiables, you can start researching schools. You can learn a lot about a school by reviewing its resources online. Many schools will also send you class descriptions and guidebooks if you request that information.

If you cannot find answers to your questions online, you can always contact admissions to get more information. The admissions staff can be extremely helpful. They can find answers to your question or point you toward other resources.

Do not be afraid to reach out! This is a big decision, and you should have access to all of the information you need to make it.

Step 3: Get Picky Once You Find Schools that Meet Your Must-Haves

Once you have a list of schools that include everything on your “must-have” list, then you can start to get picky. You can do some further research to determine which schools have things that are on your “want” list. 

Some items to consider might include:

  • Sporting events, including access to Intramural sports
  • Gyms and personal training access
  • Options to live off-campus
  • Multicultural events, clubs, and resources
  • Religious community access
  • Greek life
  • Musical groups or opportunities
  • Political groups
  • Location of campus compared to the rest of the city or town
  • Performing arts programs (available to non-majors)

Review whatever campus life information you can find. You can often see this information on a school’s website.

If you have friends or family that went to a particular school or are currently attending, they can be a great resource to determine what college life is really like at that school.

Step 4: Create a Short List of Schools

Once you have done some research, create a list of your top schools. This list might include five to ten schools. These schools meet everything on your must-have list, and they have quite a few items on your “want” list.

Once you have this list, you should work on whittling the list down even more. Some of that work might focus on admission requirements for each school.

In general, there are three types of schools on every student’s list. They include:

  • Match Schools. You think you are likely to get into this school, and it matches everything on your must-have list. It isn’t your dream school, but attending this school would still be pretty great.
  • Reach Schools. You aren’t sure that you will get into this school, but it checks all of the boxes for you and then some. You really want to attend this school, and you would be thrilled to be admitted. Your dream school is on this list.
  • Safety Schools. This is a school where you are sure to be admitted. It is a “fallback.” It has everything you need, but it wouldn’t be your first choice if you can get into a reach or match school.

Your list should include a mix of match, reach, and safety schools. As a rule, you should have at least one safety school, but you can have several reach or match schools.

As you work through your list, you might want to itemize the pros and cons of each school. You might even want to rank your non-negotiable attributes to help you make your decisions.

Perhaps one school has a location that would work, but it is not ideal. You can give that school a 5 out of 10 for your ranking for location. You can go through this process for virtually any attribute that is important to you (but is not on your “must-have” list).

Going through this process for each must-have attribute and want list item will help you determine which schools rank the best for you overall. It will also help you pinpoint which characteristics are the most important for you.

Use Your Short List to Schedule College Tours

A college tour is a useful tool to further narrow your list of schools. While everything can look great on paper, there is no real substitute for setting foot on campus. 

Sometimes you can visit campus and know by the end of the college campus tour that the school is a great fit. The visit can also tell you whether you need to keep looking.

How many colleges should I visit?

It depends. However, a good rule of thumb is that you should plan to visit at least two schools but no more than ten schools. Make sure that you visit your safety school.

What should I do on a college tour? 

The most important goal of a college tour is to get a feel for the campus. That means you should check out the campus grounds, buildings where your classes will be held, dorms, cafeteria, and social hangouts. You can also check out items that are important to you, such as sports facilities or experimental labs.

You can use your college tour to get answers to questions you have about the school as well. Below are just a few examples of information you might want as you go through a college tour with a current student.

  • What does a typical day look like?
  • How much time do students spend studying?
  • What kind of library access do you have?
  • What do you do on the weekends?
  • What activities are available in the community (outside of the school)?
  • How is the food?
  • How did you meet your friends?
  • Is there a mentorship program?
  • How helpful has your advisor been?

The questions you should ask will vary based on your interests and the research that you have already done about the school. You can use this college tour checklist to help prepare for your visit.

How long are college tours?

Most college tours will last a few hours. You should plan for at least two hours, but you want to give yourself plenty of time. In some cases, visits can last a whole day.

Do college tours cost money?

Generally, no. However, you should consider the costs involved in traveling to the college campus. Things like gas money, food for the trip, parking fees, and hotel expenses can all add up quickly.

What to Wear to a College Tour

You usually do not have to dress up for a college tour. However, some college visits coincide with interviews for admission, so you should consider those interactions in your planning. You should also keep in mind that you might be meeting professors and admissions staff, and first impressions can be important!

At a minimum, wear comfortable walking shoes to explore the campus.

How to Visit a University

The best way to visit a university is to schedule a college tour with admissions. They will put you in a group or set up an individual visit, depending on your preferences.

Many schools allow you to sign up for visits online. However, contacting admissions directly can help you put together a visit that is more tailored to your needs.

Sign Up for a College Tour with High Point University

Get more information about college tours with High Point University by visiting our admissions page. You can also schedule a visit online as well. We encourage all potential students to check out our campus and learn what High Point has to offer.