Campus visits: Make them work for you


My campus visit mantra is: “It is worth more than two hours of your time if you might spend four years of your life there.”

I am a strong advocate for visiting colleges early and often. Nothing validates a student’s research more than getting out there and visiting the campus, or “trodding the sod,” as they say in the world of college admissions.

Families need to check out the layout of the campus, the updated or outdated facilities – including the fitness center, science laboratories, dining halls and dorms – and take a peek at the surrounding neighborhood and community, as well. Remember, the complete college experience goes well beyond the classroom and the football field.

What’s involved in a standard campus visit?

Here’s what’s usually covered in the information session:

  • Academics – most popular majors, new majors, distribution requirements, academic advising, research, internships, study abroad options, honors programs, etc.
  • Residential life – dormitory choices, dining options, Greek life, etc.
  • Career services – range of services offered, including assessments, interview prep, resume help, corporate and graduate school recruitment efforts, percentage of students employed within six months of graduation, etc.
  • Undergraduate life – athletics, student organizations, number and variety of clubs and extracurricular activities available.
  • Application process – admissions programs (early action, early decision, regular decision); admissions statistics (percentages of students accepted, rejected, deferred, wait-listed, etc.); timelines/deadlines; admissions requirements; standardized testing – testing requirements (SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP and IB exams, etc.); subjective criteria considered (essays, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, etc.).
  • Financial aid – need-based aid, merit-aid opportunities, institutional scholarships, etc.
  • Question and answer session.

Many colleges and universities have now added entertaining videos and/or student panels where student ambassadors share information about their own college application process during high school and their current colleges experiences.

The second component of the campus visit is the campus tour. Here are some tips on making the most of the campus tour:

  • Be prepared with comfortable walking shoes. Some tours are very scripted with an overwhelming amount of dates and facts (i.e., number of books in their libraries, etc.), while others are refreshingly unscripted and often tailored to their audiences.
  • Ask good questions. Here are a few examples:
    • “Why did you choose ________?”
    • “What do you think makes your school distinctive?”
    • “How dominant is the Greek system in the social life of the campus?”
    • “What is one thing you would change about your school?”
    • “How challenging is your workload, compared to your high school experience?”
  • Enjoy the trivia. Student ambassadors are encouraged to be honest and personable, and many spice up their tours with college trivia and traditions. Did you know that the University of Georgia’s bulldog is a real dog named “UGA.” He is thought to be the most recognizable mascot in the country. He has a student ID card and travels in his own dog house, with air conditioning! The University of Georgia is the only college to bury all its old mascots inside vaults underneath the football stadium. That says a lot about the culture of UGA, and most prospective students love it.

If you are finding the whole campus visit experience stressful, here are some resources that can assist your planning:


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: ;