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Waypoint's Guide To Visiting Colleges

Now is the time to start planning your college visits for the upcoming school year. While the best time to visit is when school is in session, it is okay for younger high school students to check out some of their top choices during the summer. However, September will be the last chance that rising seniors will have to see schools in action and gauge the fit of a college before submitting their applications this fall.

Here are some of our tips and a checklist (PDF) you can use to plan your upcoming college visits.

Why Visit Colleges?

Like with any large investment or purchase, you will probably weigh your options by gathering the pros and cons of each choice. Most of us visit several houses before finding the right one to purchase. We test-drive several cars before finding the best one to buy. Choosing a college is no different. It is a large financial and personal investment that should be taken into careful consideration. You will spend four years on the campus of your alma mater in the hopes that it will prepare you well for a fulfilling career of your choice. Does the university fit you socially, academically, geographically, financially, and personally? Physically seeing various aspects of a college and meeting with students, faculty, and staff can help identify whether you are truly interested in a school or not. Of course, visiting colleges may not be possible for everyone*. Still, it can help make your decision easier and help you determine whether a college is the right fit for you.

Demonstrating Interest

An additional bonus to visiting colleges is the opportunity to demonstrate your interest to the school's admissions officers. Some colleges actually track the interest that students demonstrate because it helps admissions officers know who will likely enroll in their school if they offer admission. Applications to college are increasing around the country, and admissions offices are using various tactics to track "demonstrated interest" and filter out "stealth applicants" - students that apply out of the blue and never express interest before submitting an application. One of the best ways to get on an admissions officer's radar is to sign up for an official tour of the college and meet with folks in the admissions office.

Planning Your Visit

Before you decide to visit colleges, take some time to research what types of colleges and majors you want to pursue first. This is a daunting task for some students because they either don't know where to start or how to pick the right ones from a sea of options. At Waypoint, we spend a lot of time with students in assessing and considering their personalities, talents, interests, achievements, and goals before researching colleges to find their best-fit schools. However, if you have a general idea of what you are looking for, here are a few questions to consider when creating a list of colleges to visit.

  • Does the school offer the major you want to pursue, and how reputable is the program (not necessarily the school's name)?

  • Do you like the location - city, suburban, rural?

  • What size school would be best for you, and does this college fit that preference?

  • Does it offer extracurricular activities and sports that you currently enjoy?

  • What are the job prospects and career development opportunities offered at this school within your desired major?

  • What is the background of the faculty in your field of interest?

  • Does this college have a community of students with which you can resonate?

If students are struggling to find colleges that interest them or do not really know what they want to study, we would be happy to meet with them and their families for an initial free consultation. You can also find some free college-search resources on our Student Resources page.

Once you know which colleges you want to visit, schedule an appointment with someone at the admissions office, book a tour, and reach out to the department that offers the major you are considering pursuing.

During Your Visit

Visiting a college is more than just taking an official tour. Get a sense of what it would be like to live, study, and enjoy your four years there. Meet with students and professors and ask lots of questions. Attend a class if possible and get a feel for how classes are structured and taught there. Have lunch in the cafeteria and see if it will be sufficient for you and if it has a good vibe. Try to attend a campus event and see if their school spirit fits what you are looking for. There are many things to consider during your visit, but here are a few things to do while you are there.

  • Meet with the admissions office and try to attend an information session. Come prepared with questions and be ready to talk about yourself if asked.

  • Take a campus tour and write notes about the things you like or dislike about the facilities, residence halls, or campus in general.

  • At a minimum, you should visit the academic department that houses your desired major. Also, try to arrange an opportunity to sit in one of the classes and meet with the professors and students.

  • Visit some of the things that fall under your "room and board" - cafeterias, lounges, residence halls, dorms, and common spaces for students.

  • Walk around the surrounding city or town to see if it provides the right amenities, culture, entertainment, and convenience for you.

  • Look at bulletin boards, school newspapers, or other internal school media to get a sense of the day-to-day life of students.

This is a lot of information to capture during a visit, especially if you plan to visit several colleges. It is important to write down your plan, list your questions, and take notes during your visit. Here is our College Visit Guide, which includes a checklist, itinerary, and note-taking section organized by topics.

Waypoint's College Visit Guide
Download PDF • 352KB

After Your Visit

It is possible that you will have met some people during your visit, especially admissions officers, professors, and students in the same field you want to study. As mentioned before, it is important to demonstrate an interest in a school you are strongly considering. You could do that by sending a thank you email to the admissions officer you met or to the office in general if it was a brief encounter. You can maintain contact with students you met so you can ask further questions about the school before you apply, or they can be great points of contact if you get admitted and are beginning to transition to college life.

Reflect on your experience during your visit and discuss it with your parents, guidance counselor, or mentors. These conversations can help clarify your thoughts about each school and help you decide more objectively which schools to apply to and hopefully attend.

*For those unable to visit colleges, check out this list of virtual tours, courtesy of Ethan Sawyer (The College Essay Guy) and put together by Rebecca Chabrow, Director of College Counseling at Linden Hall.

For more information on how to discover your best-fit colleges and how to navigate a college admissions strategy that can help maximize your odds of getting in and at lower the cost of attendance, please contact Steve Colley at or schedule a free consultation.

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