Should You Visit a College Before Accepting?

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Colleges of Distinction »

So. You just got accepted to college. And now you have to choose which of the schools you got into is going to be your final choice. How do you decide? 

Beyond academics, a huge part of your college experience has to do with your day-to-day life on campus. For that reason, you can learn so much about the dealbreakers and dealmakers through a college visit. If the option is available to you, you should prioritize visiting a college before you enroll.

When You Should Get a Campus Tour

Before college decision day on May 1, you should visit the campuses that you have been accepted to in order to get a feel for how you’d fit in. You could schedule a tour on your own or explore the school during events for admitted students. At The College of St. Scholastica, for example, admitted students days are held frequently leading up to May 1, giving students and their families a chance to see their potential college community in action.

If admitted students days are not offered, or if they don’t align with your availability, you and your family can schedule a tour, which are usually offered on a regular basis throughout the school year. 

Tours are typically given by current students, meaning you will get to engage with one of your peers throughout the process. Depending on the size of the campus and what’s included, the tours can last a few hours. In that time, the tour guide will show you major facilities and buildings and will be able to answer many of the questions you might have about campus life. 

Many schools have self-guided tour options, too. These often allow you to cater your tour to your areas of interest and major, going more in-depth than a general tour designed for all students.

After COVID-19, many schools have been offering virtual tour options, which allow you to see the campus without leaving home. This is an extremely cost-efficient way to get a feel for a school, particularly if you applied to a school out of state and far away. While virtual tours are convenient for your schedule, wallet, and health, however, they can’t give you the physical feel of the college.

Don’t forget to check out the college’s social media channels as well! Most colleges are proud to show off their campuses, programs, events, and even intimate glimpses into student life.

Check Out the College Environment

By stepping out on a college campus, you’re able to get a feel for what a “small” or “big” school feels like. You’ll get a glimpse of how crowded its streets are, how bustling or calm it is, and how you might feel if you were one of the students. Walking the campus will help you know whether you need a bike or any other kind of easy transportation, and it will get you familiar with the look of the buildings and facilities.

Aside from seeing what the buildings look like, you’ll also get a feel for the college’s energy as a whole. All of your time experiencing the school hands-on will be extremely important in helping you decide whether it is right for you.

Find Out What the School Offers

It can be overwhelming to look at a school’s website and remember what it offers.

By seeing different areas of campus, it will help you understand all that you’ll have access to as a student. This could include a gym, tutoring services, counseling, religious spaces, and student clubs.

You should also check out the college’s dining options. This is where students who get meal plans eat every day. There, you can see what everyone’s eating and decide if a meal plan will work for you.

By going on a tour, you will replace most of your anxiety about this new chapter of life with the excitement of all of the new opportunities available to you.

Visualize Where You’ll Live

It’s common for colleges to require that students live on campus, at least for the first year or two. If you’re planning to live on campus, see if you can locate and tour the typical college dorm. It’s helpful to see the building and figure out how close it is to your classes and extracurricular activities. On your tour, you can also ask about the amenities available in each suite. 

If you choose to live in an off-campus apartment, you can start your search while you’re in town. You’ll want to choose a student living apartment if possible, as you’ll still get to spend time around peers your age.

Keep in mind the distance you’ll be from campus and what forms of transportation are available to you. Many colleges, such as The College of St. Scholastica, include free public transportation, through an on-campus shuttle or with the local transit system.

Regardless of the option you choose, you should also pencil in time to explore the town or city that the college is situated in. College isn’t all about classes, so find out what activities you can take advantage of while living in a new place. This could include weekend trips into nearby nature, live music during the week at local venues, or outdoor events like farmers’ markets. 

Since college tours only last a few hours, you’ll have plenty of time to get a complete picture of your potential college experience.

Ask Questions

Asking questions during a tour is easier than asking them via email or phone call. Plus, you might not think of certain questions until you get on campus and visit the local community.

Since current students are the ones giving campus tours, you’ll be able to ask experience-based questions that a faculty member might not be able to answer. For example, you may be curious about how someone deals with potential issues with roommates, what student clubs are on the campus, and what the campus culture is like in general.

It’s also important to ask nitty-gritty questions on your tour, such as navigating the logistics of finances in college.

A tour guide can either answer or direct you to someone who has information about your college’s cost of attendance (COA). The COA includes things like:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board
  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation fees
  • Loan fees

By initiating a conversation about cost, you can also find out about grants, merit-based scholarships, price-matching scholarships, and need-based scholarships. 

Remember, you’re encouraged to ask as many questions as possible. With more than 19 million students enrolled in school in 2021, you’re certainly not the first one to need answers about this new experience.

If your tour guide doesn’t answer your questions, you can always seek more information from the admissions department while you’re on campus.

Schedule a Tour ASAP

Now that you know the benefits of getting a campus tour, you can schedule one with your potential colleges of choice.

Be sure to ask plenty of questions and explore all that the school has to offer before accepting. This will lead to realistic expectations and a greater chance of success in college. And as you prepare for this next chapter of your life, remember that the Colleges of Distinction Advice section is full of helpful articles for the future college student.