Campus Road Trips

Touring College Campuses – Exciting or Evil?

Every college campus you visit will help in making your final decision. It’s an incredibly exciting time that also can be stressful, exhausting, and cause a few family feuds. Wrap your head around the plan to make it fun and spreading out the joy by starting early and being organized.

A good starting point is to make day trips to each of the four types colleges:

  1.  Large University with Contained Campus (i.e., Penn State, Syracuse)
  2.  Large University in a City (i.e., Boston University, NYU)
  3. Small College near a City (i.e., Loyola, Haverford)
  4. Small College in Rural Setting (i.e., Bucknell, Davidson)

Hotels, gas, airfare, meals, and time away from work; college road trips get expensive. Save money and improve your learning curve by visiting colleges that are within a day’s roundtrip. Get up early on a Saturday morning and take advantage of a tour and information session of a nearby college. Even if you would never consider attending a nearby school, the more familiar you are with touring a college the better your judgment of your likes and dislikes will become. Once you have a few visits under your belt, then plan the overnight road trips.

When to visit a campus is not nearly as important as seeing & touring as many as possible. Most important is to visit, visit, visit. It is not too early to start looking at colleges the summer going into 10th grade. A fun college visit to a top notch school, might be the perfect motivator to doing well academically in high school!

Preferred visits are while the colleges are in session and campus life is in full swing. However, do not let that prevent you from seeing a school during your summer vacation or school break. It is better that you see more colleges then just visiting a few. Although a visit during a college’s vacation may pale in comparison, it is unavoidable and worthwhile. Take note, Saturday mornings are usually eerily quiet on campus, unless there is a major football game.

The three biggest deciding factors in choosing a school are often:

  1. Distance from home
  2. Size of school
  3. Tuition and/or affordability

Information Sessions & Tours –  Be sure to go online and sign up for the information session and tours. Many college information sessions will be “sold out” weeks in advance, while others will allow you to sign up the night before or even take “walk ins”. Seeing is Believing!

Mapping out your plan of touring and traveling unfortunately can be time-consuming task. Is it worth it or should you just go on a self guided tour? Information sessions and campus tours are definitely valuable for the following reasons:

  1. Admissions Officers will often reveal their biases and requirements.
  2. Opportunities for special scholarships and deadlines are emphasized.
  3. You learn the college’s traditions and celebrations and culture.
  4. They highlight the school’s top notch programs which you might not be aware of.
  5. Tours often, but not always, will allow you to visit a dorm room, which could make or break your freshman experience.
  6. You learn about specific, and not so obvious requirements, i.e., Cornell has a swimming requirement, Villanova has a language requirement,  included in Elon’s fall tuition is an optional 3 week January!

These nuances are often overlooked in the application process and could ultimately be a deal breaker. Learn about the school before you send an application.

Self Guided Tours sometimes cannot be avoided. Once you have taken a few formal tours they begin to sound repetitive, so although not ideal, a self guided tour can be very efficient if you are trying to visit many schools. Be sure to bring with you’s Campus Visit Check List.

When walking around campus, ask students what they like & dislike about the school. Most kids are happy to answer and they will give you the real scoop!

Demonstrating Interest Many colleges track the interest you show in them, therefore, always stop by the Admissions Office and let them know that you are visiting campus. This assists them in evaluating whether you are a serious applicant verses a phantom applicant. Since a serious applicant is more likely to accept an offer of admission be sure to get on their radar by registering that you have visited campus. Some colleges, especially large universities, do not measure demonstrated interest nor track students who visit campus.

The Final Word A college education costs big bucks $$$. Invest your time to visit as many colleges as possible before you commit to spending $80,000 to $220,000. The time you spend now will help you find the best school (and scholarships) for a price you can afford.