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    Tips for Planning a College Tour

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: March 25th, 2024
    Tips for Planning a College Tour

    College visits and tours are very important to your college decision process. You can learn a lot by speaking to the students and faculty at a college and getting a feel for the campus. This is one of the biggest factors in determining which school is the right fit, and which are worth applying to. As you begin to visit colleges, it’s a good idea to plan out your college visits to get the most you can get out of them. 

    In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know to visit and tour colleges successfully. We’ll start by explaining how to plan them out and coordinate logistics. Then, we’ll discuss what you should do to get the most out of your visit. Let’s get into it!

    Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Travel Logistics

    Budget

    One of the first steps you should take when planning college visits is to determine your budget. You should sit down with your parents or guardians and figure out how much each of you can contribute to your visits. Expenses often include hotels, transportation, and food. Your parents might have to take time off work as well if they plan on going with you. Once you have determined your budget, you’ll know how selective you need to be in planning which schools to visit.

    Virtual tours

    For the budget or time-limited student, virtual tours can be a great option! These tours are free and convenient ways to get a feel for campus from your own home. Most colleges have virtual tours listed on their website. Some are in the form of YouTube videos while others have more interactive 3D panoramas that resemble Google Street View. If you are interested in a specific school, you should look for a virtual tour on their website, and if you feel like shopping around, check out this list of some of the best virtual campus tours!

    While there is no perfect replacement for an in-person visit, a virtual tour can get you pretty close. With 360-degree immersive photos of the campus and custom-made tour guide recordings, it’ll almost feel as though you are at the school. It’s a good idea to try to supplement virtual tours with conversations with admissions staff or students. As you take the virtual tour, try writing down any questions you may have and remember to ask them later.

    Traveling with friends

    Going on college visits with your friends can be a great idea for several reasons. If you drive together, you can save money on transportation. Additionally, having a friend at the school can help you figure out what you like and don’t like about it. Having a close friend who you feel you can be honest with allows you to speak your mind and bounce your ideas off someone else. If your parents don’t have time to accompany you on visits but are worried about you traveling alone, having a friend can also help ease this issue.

     Researching schools in the region

    If you’ve decided that you want to visit a school, it’s a good idea to research schools in the same region to see if there are any you’re interested in visiting. This is a good chance to knock out two birds with one stone. There’s no sense in driving two states away to visit a college, driving home, and then going back out to that state two weeks later to see another college. If you can, try to combine visits into one trip.

    Tips for a successful visit

    Visit clubs you might be interested in

    To picture yourself at a school, it’s a good idea to reach out to clubs that you would consider joining if you end up attending. You can reach out to the admissions office beforehand for a list of clubs, and try emailing any that you find of interest. Chances are, there’ll be a member who is happy to meet up with you and talk about campus life. By doing this, you’ll get a better idea of the student body that you might end up befriending. You’ll also hear testimony about the college coming from someone who shares an interest with you. This may mean it’ll have a better chance of resonating with you.

    Reach out to your connections at the school

    Don’t be shy about reaching out to connections at the school you are touring. Whether it is a friend, a friend of a friend, or an alumni of your high school, it’s worth reaching out. If you don’t know of anyone who goes to the school, try speaking to your school’s college counselor. They often have lists of where recent alumni attend college. You could get a name from your counselor and reach out to that student.

    Having a connection at the school is a great way to get an honest perspective on life on campus. Because they are not hired by admissions, they will have a better probability of offering the good and bad of their school. Plus, since you have something in common with them, their advice may be especially pertinent to your likes and dislikes.

    Write down your thoughts

    As you spend time on campus and talk to students, make sure to write down your thoughts. Especially if you are visiting many schools in a short time, it’s a good idea to keep a record of thoughts. You might find that if you don’t write things down, you’ll confuse different schools and have a hard time recalling each individually. 

    Once you’ve received your admissions decisions and are making a decision, you might end up making your decision based on a pros and cons list. When it comes time to make that list, you’ll be very thankful that you wrote down your thoughts on campus.

    Visit the departments you’d consider majoring in

    If you’ve already got an idea of a few subjects you’re considering, make sure to visit those departments. You should be able to speak with some students and maybe even some professors in those fields. Usually, students will also be able to sit in on a class in their department of choice. You’ll get to see the buildings that you would spend the next four years studying in and see if you can picture yourself there. 

    Make sure to get a student’s contact information

    It’s a good idea to try to get a student’s contact information before you leave. It’s even better if you find someone who doesn’t work for admissions. As you return home, you’ll probably come up with more questions about the school. Having someone’s contact information is a great way to get honest answers to those questions and make an informed decision. If you meet someone who shows you around campus or gives you advice about the school, chances are they’ll be willing to speak with you further about it.

    Ask questions on the tour

    Although you may feel shy on your college tour, make sure to ask questions throughout. You should try to come up with some questions before you arrive so you have something to work with. But also remember to remain an active listener and ask your tour guide questions as they arise. Your college decision is a huge choice, and you want to be as informed as possible. The best way to do this is to ask any questions that come to your mind. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, especially on college visits.

    Related: Top questions to ask on a college campus visit

    Summing it up

    When it comes time to pick a college, or even to decide which colleges to apply to, college visits are invaluable. Here’s a recap of everything you should do to get the most out of your college visit:

    • Make a budget
    • Try to travel with friends
    • Research schools in the region that you visit
    • Visit clubs that you might be interested in joining
    • Reach out to any connections at the school
    • Write down your thoughts as you go
    • Visit the academic departments that interest you and talk to students and professors
    • Try to get a student’s contact information before you leave
    • Ask lots of questions

    Good luck and make sure to check back with us for more help in the admissions process! That includes a description of match, safety, and reach schools, as well as a guide to reading your financial aid award letters. We can also help you decide whether to apply early action or early decision. Finally, you’ll want to learn how to decline the admissions offers that you don’t end up accepting. Enjoy your college visits!

    Frequently asked questions about planning a college tour

    What questions to ask in a college tour?

    We put together a list of top questions to ask on a college tour just for you!

    Should you bring anything to a college tour?

    First thing is comfortable shoes! Perhaps a packable umbrella or raincoat if there are clouds in the sky? Make sure you think of how you want to take notes–a smart phone or  handy pad and pen works as well. If the day is sweltering, perhaps a cool bottle of water to keep you hydrated and cool!

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