College Open Houses: The Better Way to See a College

Nathan Wilgeroth / Colleges of Distinction »

While the beginning of fall marks the start of a new school year for many, it also marks the start of college open house season! Prospective students can learn a lot from attending open houses at colleges they’re interested in. Open houses give students a more in-depth look at what a particular university is all about. Here, they can connect with the academic departments they are considering while getting a picture of what life would be like as a student. At Adelphi University, one of our Colleges of Distinction, many students have shared that they knew Adelphi was the right fit after enjoying their time at one of its community-building open house events. Keep reading to learn about what makes open houses different from campus tours and why it’s so beneficial for students to attend them.

What Is a College Open House?

A college open house is a fantastic way for students to familiarize themselves with a university more thoroughly. Open houses might consist of:

  • Tours
  • Meetings with professors and other faculty
  • Club and organization displays
  • Lunch in a dining hall or on campus
  • Social time with current students in different programs

Depending on which schools’ open houses you go to, there might be a variety of events and activities planned for the day. Schools are usually trying to show their next generation of students just how much they have to offer, so you can even expect to have a bit of fun! Adelphi’s open houses, for example, feature a social media contest in which students are selected to win free swag throughout the day! “At York College of Pennsylvania,” Senior Associate Director of Enrollment Events Nan Noel shares, “we want students to be able to experience what’s most important to them as part of their college search. After the morning academic sessions, students and families can attend any number of presentations. Our open house includes presentations from: admission and financial aid, campus life, student panel discussions, and athletics and recreation.”

How Are Open Houses Different From Regular Campus Tours?

There are a few things that differentiate open houses and campus tours. First, campus tours tend to take less time. They’re more of a brief look at a college and its campus, and there aren’t usually as many activities planned as there are in open houses. A campus tour might only consist of a walk around campus, a short stop at a few important landmarks, and a question and answer session.

Second, open houses are generally more immersive than campus tours. Prospective students get to experience what it really might be like to attend a particular college! They often get introduced to professors, club leaders, current students who share common interests, and more. This also means students will already feel more connected to the community if they do decide to attend a certain university.

Finally, open houses also tend to be more personalized. If you know which area of study you want to go into, you can check the open house schedule to see if there’s something in line with your area of interest. Sometimes, schools will have open houses for different majors, allowing potential students to get an even better understanding of what they could expect if they decide to enroll. One of the most exciting opportunities for prospective students is the chance to connect with faculty; professors across all programs can speak with interested students about the research they are doing, the internships offered, and more! It’s a fantastic way to look forward to what they might learn as college students.“At SUNY Oneonta, we want to ensure that prospective students and families have the opportunity to meet the faculty and staff that will be supporting them throughout their education,” said Karen Brown, senior enrollment officer and executive director of admissions. “Our Open House on Saturday, Nov. 5, will provide that opportunity, and much more!”

The Benefits of Attending a College Open House

Any kind of new life experience is beyond exciting, and the transition to college is no exception. Such a huge change like going to college is a big step, and it’s important that you feel comfortable in your decision.

With so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which school is the best fit. Do your research! Open houses are the best kind of hands-on research you can do, as you’ll be able to gauge how you might actually feel as a student in the environment you visit.

“Open houses are a great way to assess not only whether the school fits you but also how you feel on campus,” says Lauren Sciocchetti, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Neumann University in Aston, PA. You may walk into an open house on a campus that wasn’t originally high on your list and just know this is the place you are meant to spend the next four years. 

When you attend an open house, you get a behind-the-scenes look at where you might eat, sleep, attend class, and study every single day. This is a great way to get excited about going to college! Alternatively, if you don’t feel a connection to the campus, you’ll know that you should continue your search to find a college that makes you feel more at home.

According to Dr. Kerr Ramsay, Sr Vice President for Enrollment at High Point University, it’s important to allow yourself the time to fully immerse yourself on a campus through an Open House to have the best opportunity to know what you might experience as a student there in the future. There’s a good chance that you’ll miss a lot about an institution if you only take a campus tour.

Even if there’s a school you 100% know you want to attend, going to an open house can set you up for success from the get-go. Open houses allow you to meet people and grow your network before you step foot on campus for your first class. Those connections are valuable, whether they’re with professors, counselors, financial aid staff, academic advisors, or other students.

Finally, here are a few important things you can figure out by attending open houses before deciding on a college:

  • Which college offers extracurriculars that are most in line with your interests?
  • Which campus feels more welcoming to you?
  • How does the size of a school affect your comfort?
  • Which college has the most services and facilities that you need, such as counseling, fitness centers, parks, etc.?

It’s a good idea to come prepared with a list of questions so you can learn more about the things that are most important to you. Following your intuition should also lead you in the right direction!

What If I Can’t Make It to an Open House?

There are several options you can pursue if you can’t make it to campus to attend an open house. First, consider taking a virtual campus tour. Virtual tours gained popularity during the pandemic as a way to let students explore the campus without actually being there, and they’re still a great choice for anyone who wants to do a bit of exploring on their own terms.

Colleges may offer different virtual tour options, so be sure to look into what’s available. Many universities now have a 360º view of almost every location on campus, which lets virtual tourists “walk around” and click on different buildings and landmarks. In some cases, there may even be recorded—or live—video footage to accompany the tour.

At Adelphi, students are also able to connect with a current student via Zoom or phone if you can’t make it to campus. Being able to speak with a future peer is a great way to learn more about the University to see if it’s the perfect fit for you. 


Choosing a college to attend is incredibly exciting, and it can also feel overwhelming. Create a network of support to assist you in narrowing down your best fit college. Family, school counselors, and the admissions staff at each college can answer your questions to help determine whether a college is right for you. College is a four-year commitment; you want to be sure it’s somewhere you can thrive!

An open house is an immersive experience that allows you to get a better feel for the way a school operates. Attend open houses at the colleges you’re interested in to narrow down your list and be confident in your final choice.