First impressions always count. This saying can be true for a job interview, meeting someone new, trying a new restaurant, and even during the college search process. Going on the “tour de colleges” allows you to compare and contrast schools through an unfiltered lens. That is why attending a campus visit at least once for each school you are considering can help you reach a better understanding of the school’s community.

As you go on the tours, be sure to keep an open mind!  

Colleges offer many opportunities for a campus visit throughout the year in the form of a daily visit. Most daily visits include an information session and a campus tour, which is typically led by a current student. The daily visit is a great way to gain a first impression of the school. You are able to get general information about the university, its academic programs, and the student life that will make you want to apply and (hopefully) enroll in May. As you go on the tours, be sure to keep an open mind!

The Information Session

Information sessions are packed with general information about the university’s history, background, academics, and of course the application process. If you have specific questions about a program you’re interested in or you want to know some statistics about the university, this is a usually a good time to ask an admission counselor.

Questions to Ask:

  • What is the student to faculty ratio?
  • What is the average class size?
  • How many of your classes are taught by professors?
  • What is your graduation rate?
  • Do you have a learning community or other freshman experience?
  • What academic resources are offered to students?
  • What career services are available?
Student leading campus tour with group of prospective families

Campus tour outside SJU’s Chapel of St. Joseph

The Campus Tour

Now is the exciting part of the visit: the campus tour! This is your chance to have a more in-depth look at the campus while also hearing real-life stories from the current students. While on tour, pick your tour guide’s brain. Tour guides love when prospective students have questions about their college home. During the tour, you will be able to hear genuine, passionate, and true stories that will help you envision yourself on the particular campus.

Questions to Ask:

  • What is your favorite activity to do outside of your campus community?
  • Why did you choose your school?
  • What are some traditions your university has?
  • What are student/professor relationships like at this school?
  • Tell me about the classroom environment.
  • Do most students go home on the weekend?

After the Visit

Once your visit is over, be sure to reflect on the experience and jot down notes. What surprised or impressed you? If your parents or friends also joined you, what were their impressions? Can you see yourself taking classes with the students you met? Or living in the residence halls? Keep these notes in a safe place so that after each visit you can compare your experiences and schedule second visits to the colleges that stood out to you or to the ones you still need more information on.

While you most likely will not be able to visit every single school, make an effort to visit some of your top choices. If you are unable to visit in person, look into virtual tours or connecting with the colleges via social media. Platforms like Instagram and Snapchat allow you to get another view of the student experience, as well as connect with current and prospective students.

Finally, keep in mind that there is no perfect college out there. Your college search should be about finding the right school, not the perfect school. And while there can be many “right” options for you, campus visits can help you figure out which colleges you’ll be proud to call home for the next four years.

by Kate Murphy, Assistant Director of Admission