Deciding to attend college is one of the biggest decisions you'll make during your life.…
College visits are the best way for students and parents to identify if a college is a good fit for their family. Virtual and high school visits are great ways to get an introduction to the college and decide if it’s worth visiting., whereas on-campus visits provide the most comprehensive experiences.
In my work as a high school counselor, I always recommend students visit in person whenever possible and encourage them to ask themselves the following questions:
- Can I see myself here for the next four years?
- Does it feel right?
- If they love it…what specifically do they love?
- If they don’t, why not, what specifically don’t they like?
Regardless if they choose the college they visit, they’re still gaining valuable information that can be used to narrow their search. When visiting, there are several things to consider which is why I developed a college visit checklist to help!
Our College Visit Checklist
- Visit dorms and ask about options, amenities, and requirements
- Check out the dining facilities and ask about meal plan options and what other locations meals can be used at on campus
- Tour intended major buildings/studios/lab space, if applicable
- View campus amenities including the student union, workout facilities, athletic complex, intramural options, library, tutoring center, health services, etc.
- Find out about safety and safety services provided on campus
- Ask your student tour guide what they love most about the college, what they were most surprised about starting college, or what they wish they would have known as an incoming freshman
Talk with a student or faculty member in intended major if possible
- Ask about the application process, number of students admitted, back up major options if not admitted, accreditation status (if needed)
- Explore options for internships
- Learn about the job placement rate for intended major
- Inquire about the career services provided as they near graduation
Meet with admissions
- Size of student body
- Average SAT/ACT and GPA of admitted students
- Graduation rate and those that graduate within 4 years
- Average class sizes
- Transfer credits – types accepted (dual enrollment, AP, IB) and how to determine if they’ll be accepted as required or elective courses
- Activities/clubs/organizations/intramural and/or varsity sports available
- Study abroad options
- Resources/supports available to undecided students to help select a major
- Resources/supports available for students needing extra help
- Roommate selection/assignment process
- Percentage of students that receive gift aid (grants, scholarships)
- Scholarships available to students and which ones are renewable for four years
- Automatic scholarships awarded based on GPA or SAT/ACT scores
- Cost of attendance
- On campus jobs available
- Technology needed/provided
- Transportation options – car needed and/or allowed on campus
Make sure to schedule campus visits on college websites. Determine what factors are most important to your student and family, then prioritize the lists above.
Realize that visiting during the summer will have a different “feel” than visiting when students are on campus, however, valuable information can still be gained from summer visits. Students will submit college applications late summer and early fall of senior year, however, final decisions won’t need to be made until May 1.
There will be time to revisit top-choice colleges during the school year. Most families find it valuable to meet with college financial aid offices when taking senior year visits and making final college selections.
One final piece of advice that a wise mom of five shared with me early in my career…when going on a college visit, have the child drive one way. If they don’t drive, they’ll likely take a nap or get lost on their device and the time will fly by. Driving allows them to understand the time and distance away from home, which is often an important factor for students to consider.
Above all else, enjoy this exciting time in exploring your child’s next life adventure!
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