Advice for College Visits


Olivia Buckel, Senior Editor-in-Chief

A whole new city, a whole new group of friends, a whole new room, or even a whole new time zone. What about that could be stressful, right? These concerns run rampant throughout the mind of a junior during their visits to the colleges that they are interested in. I should know because I was a junior only one year ago, and I have finally made it onto the other side of the college search. This has given me a lot of time to revisit and reflect on the process of college visits. What did I do well? What did I enjoy? What do I wish I would have done? What have I learned? These reflections have allowed me to compile this list of advice to juniors for their college visits.

The first, and maybe most important, piece of advice I have is to take notes on what you saw, heard, and felt. You can even use your phone for this. If you notice something a guidance counselor, tour guide, or current student says that you either like or dislike, put it down in your notes app. Maybe there is a program that you learned about on your tour that you are really interested in and you want to look into it later on, write it down. Anything and everything you want to remember about your college visit, write it down! Because of nerves or exhaustion, because college visits are really exhausting, remembering all the information dumped on you at once is nearly impossible. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and memorable facts helps a lot. You could even ask a parent to write things down for you so you can pay attention.

My second piece of advice is to take pictures of as many places as you can, especially if you are really interested in the college. While Google images is a useful tool, it will never truly show how the college campus looks. It will show how it looks on its best days, and you need to understand how it looks every day. Once again, use your phone for this! Go into the dorm rooms and take pictures of how big they are, what the dining hall looks like, and how the classrooms are situated. You can always look up pictures of these later, but as I mentioned, they will not look the same as they are in real life. Once again, ask a parent or guardian to do this for you during your tour!

Thirdly, my favorite piece of advice, do your research beforehand. There were multiple instances during my college tours where I asked a question based on information I learned about the college from my own research, and the tour guides were surprised with how much I knew already. This helped give me credibility and a basic understanding of how the college works before I went. This also gives you opportunities to ask questions that you really want to know about, rather than more basic ones that you can find on the college’s website. For example, instead of asking, “do you offer study abroad opportunities,” you can ask, “how was your experience studying abroad in Germany?” It helps a lot.

At risk of sounding like every other parent out there, my fourth piece of advice is to ask guidance counselors for help if you are confused. No matter how cheesy it sounds, they truly do want to help you, and they understand this process very well. If you are not comfortable asking your guidance counselor questions, ask another one of the guidance counselors the same question and see if they click with you better. It does not hurt to try, and if they do not know the answer to your question, they are more than happy to help you find the answer.

Finally, even if you don’t want to, tour both small and big schools, as well as both rural and urban. Originally, I was looking at bigger schools in cities, and now I am going to a small school twenty minutes away from a city. I never would have thought I would end up at the school I am going to, but if I did not tour both rural and urban universities, I would have ended up at a college I would end up hating. While this advice can be hard to accomplish depending on a person’s financial situation or location, I really encourage to at least try to do this. You never know what will truly work for you, and you will never know what will if you don’t explore all your options.

Overall, while college visits can be scary and overwhelming, they were the most useful aspect in my college search by far. If I did not explore what I thought I would have liked, I would have never figured out what I actually like. The process is by far worth it, and at the very least, you will look back with gratitude on the memories you made. Happy searching!