AdmissionsCollege Visits

The Importance of visiting colleges (for younger students)

By February 23, 2022 No Comments

By Ethan Currie

Despite the recent weather, it remains true that spring is very much on the way! That means spring break, which, in the world of college applications, can often mean college visits. While this is a popular time for juniors, in particular, to go out and visit schools, it can also be a time for sophomores to start getting a sense of the different types of schools that exist. With that in mind, here are some tips and things to be thinking of when considering or planning Spring break school visits:

  1. At this point, the focus isn’t necessarily on the specific school you’re visiting. Spring break plans are often determined by other considerations like family or vacation destinations, and college visits can sometimes be the secondary consideration – which is fine! Almost every medium- to large-sized city in the US has or is nearby to some college or university, and even if the specific institution isn’t necessarily where a student sees themself ending up, it can still be useful to visit places that represent certain ‘types’ or ‘categories’ of colleges that can then be applied for widely. For example, a family trip to San Diego could easily include an afternoon trip to San Diego State University, which could give students a general sense of what a very large, public, research institution in an urban setting is like – and/or to Point Loma Nazarene University, which would give a sense of what a small-to-medium sized, private campus experience in a suburban setting is like.
  2. Especially for sophomores, ‘types’ are going to be more helpful than knowing a handful of specific schools. For all sorts of reasons, including family and friend connections and representations in media, students may have an image of themselves at a specific institution and maybe they’ve had that image for a long time – which is great! A question to start exploring now, though, is why exactly a student sees themself so enjoying a certain kind of campus experience. Is it the intimate class sizes? The excitement of a D1 game day? The chance to work closely with world-renowned researchers? Regardless of what the specific elements are, identifying them explicitly can be crucial in developing a successful college list, so no matter where the admission offers come from, there will be excitement to attend in the Fall. Doing these school visits now can be very helpful in teasing out exactly what those elements are.
  3. Eliminating ‘types’ will be just as helpful as adding them. Especially for students earlier in the college application process, it can be just as helpful to know that a category like ‘small and urban’ or ‘big and rural’ is not where a student sees themself being successful as it is to know that they would like other kinds of schools. So if you end up doing a visit and come away feeling disappointed that you didn’t connect with a school or the type of campus experience it offered, cheer up! You’ve actually made a significant contribution to the college search process. 
  4. Lastly, take advantage of any networks you may have, including siblings, older friends, etc, who may be able to host you for a longer campus visit that would give an even more accurate sense of what it’s like to be a student living on a certain kind of campus. There’s no substitute for spending time on a campus with an actual current student for getting a sense of what your own experience would be like.

In general, just make sure to take advantage of any time you have to visit campuses by signing up for official information sessions and (often student-led) campus tours. Some schools will use these sign ups to track ‘demonstrated interest’, which can sometimes impact admissions decisions down the road, but even if they don’t, hearing directly from an admissions counselor about admissions policies and from a student about student life on campus are very rich sources of information that can help you figure out what you’re looking for above and beyond that specific school. Happy exploring!