WHEN YOU SHOULD VISIT:
It's never too early to start IF you have a student who would welcome learning more. The goal is to learn, not to intimidate! Usually by junior year, students should begin touring colleges to understand what might appeal to them as they begin to assemble their list of schools. Students (and families) can put a great deal of time and effort into researching a college, but until you've stepped foot on the campus, you won't really have a feel for it - and for the community. While is is always best to visit a college while it is in session, take advantage of family travel to visit colleges wherever you vacation. If you don't travel much and want to save money, visit once your student has been admitted. In these COVID times, take advantage of virtual tours offered by every college on their websites. And if you want to get a feel for a "real" college (even if you don't think you'll stay close to home) visit one of our four local colleges: UCSD, SDSU, USD and Point Loma Nazarene. You'll get look at a great range of colleges: large public, medium-sized private and smaller religious - all right in our back yard. Touring these schools can give you a feel for colleges of a certain size and selectivity.
BEFORE YOU VISIT:
Look on the school's website under the "Visit" tab. There you will find information about availability of visits which in these COVID times vary depending on the part of the country. Register in advance for both a tour and to attend an information session. College tours are usually given by student tour guides and the information sessions contain a ton of information regarding admission, financial aid and campus culture and students are strongly encouraged to attend. The "Visit" tab will also have information about where to dine and/or stay if you are visiting a school farther from home.
Nearly every college offers tours on their website so you can check out the campus without ever leaving home. Also check out You Visit - https://www.youvisit.com/collegesearch/ and Youniversity TV -https://www.youniversitytv.com/
WHEN YOU'RE THERE:
There are lots of things to look for when visiting colleges. When you're taking a campus tour, engage with the tour guide and get as authentic an impression as possible. When they tell you that they have Blue Lights for campus security, that's great, but every college has that. Same goes for professor office hours. Dig deeper. Here's a link to some great questions to ask and things to look for on a college tour:
and here's an article about more things to look for:
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
Timing - You will get the best sense of a campus if you visit when students are present. It is tempting to tour colleges over the summer or over a break, but if the college is also on break, you won't get a feel for the campus when it is alive and bustling with students and activities.
Split Up - If a tour group is large, parents and students can consider joining different tour groups. Each tour guide will have a different take - be from somewhere different, studying different things, involved in different activities. This can offer two viewpoints for families to compare once the conclude their tours.
Follow your interest - Before you arrive, check with the admissions office or tour group to see if it is possible to sit in on a class or meet with a professor in your area of interest.
Financial Aid - If you are very concerned about paying for college and have specific questions about financial aid at the college, make an appointment to visit the Financial Aid office during your visit.
Get Your Questions Answered - Similarly, if you have specific questions about housing, disability services, career services or anything else that will impact your interest in the school, make arrangements to speak to someone in the admissions office while you are there who can either answer your questions or point you to someone who can. If you come away without answers or frustrated with the answers, that will tell you a great deal about that college.
Take Notes! - This is important, particularly if you are visiting multiple colleges. Chances are, you will not leave without an opinion about the colleges you tour. Make note of things which appeal to you and of things to help you remember each school. Believe it or not, if you visit several schools, you will quickly forget which one had the cool Engineering building, climbing wall in the rec center or actual Bloomberg ticker in their business school. Take photos, but take notes of your impressions too.