5 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Visit

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your College Visit

Written By: Kian Simpson

Stepping onto campus for a college visit feels both exciting and daunting.

Exploring the academic buildings, interacting with students, listening to lectures, and eating at the local college “hot spots” are the best ways to get excited about campus life. Each offers a chance for college-bound high schoolers to get energized about their college future.

While these visits are important for learning the good about a specific college, they’re also vital for learning about the “bad.”  It’s a time to gather information that will factor into big decisions.

Just a few years ago, I was in the midst of visiting colleges. I didn’t know the right way to approach my college visits to get the most out of the experience. That’s one of the reasons I’m now dedicated to guiding students and parents through the college application and selection process. There’s no reason for your teen to make the same mistakes my parents and I made. And there’s no reason you and your teen can’t learn from the things I did right.

To help your college-bound student have a fun, insightful, and productive college visit, check out these proven tips!

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Visit


1. Visit While School is In Session

Visiting a college while school is in session gives you the best glimpse into active student life. You’ll get a strong sense of campus activities like sports programs, clubs, and social events. You’ll pick up on norms like where students eat and hang out and how they get around campus. You’ll also have the opportunity to engage with professors and students to hear their firsthand experiences of life on campus. To put it simply, visiting while school is in session allows you to better grasp the college’s “vibe.”

What should you do if you can only visit during summer? Don’t worry. You will still learn a lot about campus life even if you don’t get an exact sense of what things are like when school is in session. 

2. Take the Official Tour – And Don’t Skip the Optional Information Session

An official campus tour and information session will help orient you when you first step foot on campus. While on the tour, you’ll learn the names (and the locations) of key buildings and what directions make sense to explore on your own. (You’ll typically be given a map or you can download an app to find your way around.) You’ll also be able to visit the Student Services Center, Campus Health Center, Dining Halls, the gym, the library, and likely tour a dorm room or two. You’ll also get a glimpse into the diversity of students on campus and the vibe of the surrounding community. 

These tours are also generally led by student guides so you have the guarantee that you’ll meet at least one active, real student at the college you’re visiting. Additionally, these students will make sure you get an overview of the college – from academics to extracurriculars to campus life. You’ll also have the chance to ask the student for personal insights.

I recommend taking advantage of any optional information sessions that are held before or after official campus tours. These sessions provide important information about the school’s academic offerings, application process, scholarships & financial aid, and a host of other topics that will come in handy should you ultimately decide to apply.  

3. Talk To Two Current Students (At Least)

Official tours offer a great intro to a college. However, talking to students on campus will give you a real, unfiltered perspective of campus life. You can even have them expand on things you just learned on the tour.

Kindly ask a student if they have 5 minutes to chat. Ask them questions that shed light on their personal experience. What do they like and dislike about the college? Why did they choose to attend? What is their area of study, and how did they wind up in that major? Are they happy with the education they’re receiving? Do they have any favorite extracurriculars? How have they found their friends/community on campus?

By actively seeking out student perspectives, you can better determine if the school aligns with your values and goals. Pro tip: DO confirm they are “undergrads,” not “graduate students.” 

4. Tour the College Campus on Your Own 

After you’ve officially toured the campus and spoken to students, explore the campus yourself!

Visit academic buildings of interest, check out student hang-out spots, wander through the dorm halls, order food at the local campus eateries, and visit new spots that you didn’t see on the tour. These can be student centers, the library, coffee shops, or even the walking paths between classes!

See the campus in its entirety, and pay attention to what you like and don’t like AND what feels right and what doesn’t.

5. Take Notes AND Pictures

During your visit, you’ll be absorbing a lot of information in a relatively short period of time. It’s important to write down key details about the campus. These can range from broad observations, such as the overall student atmosphere, to specific notes, such as academic majors of interest, financial aid options, or personal anecdotes shared by students. It’s also wise to take pictures of the dorm rooms, the Student Center, the library, the gym, or anything else you might want to refer back to.

Trust me. You will thank yourself when it comes time to apply. Chances are you’ll be visiting a handful (or more!) of colleges and you won’t remember everything about each college. A few key notes and pictures can help you confirm that a college makes sense as part of your overall application list. They can also help you finish a supplemental essay at the last minute. I realized the value of these notes the hard way. That is, I didn’t have them!

Overall, a campus tour will help you determine whether a school aligns with the goals for your college journey and can help you feel more comfortable (and confident!) when it comes time to apply.

Keep an open mind as you explore colleges. No two college campuses are alike – each one has its own unique ambiance and character. And you never know how college admissions can go – so it’s wise to get excited about multiple colleges. Above all, have fun! This is your time to explore which college campus suits you best!

About Kian Simpson:

Kian Simpson is the Head of Curriculum at Cohort, an affordable college counseling service that helps high school students apply to colleges one month at a time. He graduated from Harvard University in 2019 where he studied Neurobiology, followed by a few years in management consulting. He eventually found his way back to education and joined Cohort as both the Head of Curriculum and a mentor to Cohort students. Cohort helps students build college lists, write college essays, determine standardized testing strategies, build extracurriculars, and much more. You can learn more about Cohort at bycohort.com or follow them on Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “5 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Visit,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy reading!

10 Tips to Make the Absolute Most of Your College Orientation (from Upperclassmen Who’ve Been There)

15 Things Kids Should Know to Prepare Them for College

5 Reminders for Parents as the College Process Begins

15 Common College Freshman Mistakes to Avoid

How to Afford College – Everything You Need to Know

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