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For families with juniors, this spring semester marks the best time to visit college campuses at the schools you are considering. The college counseling team at Galin has guided thousands of families through the college search, and these are our top tips when it comes to planning visits:

Don’t wait too long to make plans:

For most families, spring break is the best time to visit colleges, particularly if you are expecting to travel significant distances to see schools. Partly, this is because spring break is when students have some time away from classes. But partly, it’s because it is important, to get the fullest possible visit experience, to see campuses when there are students present. Visits in the summer, while still informative, don’t always give you the best sense of the campus culture at most schools. Planning a series of visits, particularly if flights and rental cars are part of the itinerary, can be time-consuming and logistically-challenging, so don’t wait until two weeks before spring break to plan visits–plan them now!

Visit a Variety:

When we make initial lists of college suggestions to students, we try to include a little bit of variety. For a student who isn’t sure if they want a large university or a small college, we might suggest some of both! (and even some in-between). For a student who isn’t sure what type of campus setting they want, we would suggest some urban, some suburban, and some rural. When you plan visits, try to see a variety of different colleges. This helps you to see the contrasts between different types of schools and to better discern what types of schools will best suit your needs.

Plan deliberately:

Our team has a saying that “there is no such thing as a bad college visit.”  What we mean is that pretty much any exposure to college campuses provides helpful context you can use to solidify your criteria in the college search. But some visit experiences can be more meaningful than others. For example, a visit where you get to participate in an admission interview, meet with a student, or engage with a professor, would be much more valuable than simply walking around a campus and looking at the buildings. So when you sign up for tours or information sessions at colleges, think about whether there are other people you want to meet with on campus–athletics coaches, for example, or alumni from your high school who attend, and build those conversations into your visits, too! 

Don’t focus on reach schools:

One of the best pieces of advice we can give is to ensure that you are visiting colleges to which you have a reasonable chance of being admitted. Remember that falling in love with a college where you are very likely NOT going to be admitted can sour your college search and application process.  There are thousands of excellent schools in the U.S. and elsewhere, and many of them are probably accessible to you!  Work with your counselor to get a sense of which schools are in your range in terms of admission, and try to focus your visits on those schools, rather than on super-reaches.  Finally, remember that visits are one of the best ways to show your interest in a college, and that typically the most selective colleges don’t care about tracking your interest-but many others do!

Take purposeful notes:

When you visit multiple colleges in a matter of days, it can be very easy for them to blend together! One way to ensure that you remember some of the important tidbits you pick up from college visits is to make sure that you are taking notes as you go along. Our counselors can offer some great templates that will help you organize your impressions of each school, but any note-taking is better than none!