Last minute campus visit tips

Typically what I’m saying to families at this time of the year is “load up your mini-vans and head for the airports and highways for the annual spring break campus visit blitz, but make it your own, go above and beyond the standard tour.”

But, of course this year is totally different. Some campuses are providing tours and information sessions with reduced attendance; reservations required and many are still closed to visitors. If you’re planning on heading out, here are some last minute tips to help you make the most of your travels.

  • Allow extra time. Some campuses are so large that you may have a 10 minute walk from the parking garage to the Admissions Office. Allow enough time so you arrive early enough to check in with the receptionist. When you first arrive, it makes sense to find out if and when a representative from the admissions office will be visiting your high school or your city. Make sure you make note of that information because it will be very important for you to follow up, if the college or university is still on your list after the visit.
  • Be respectful of other people’s time. If you arrive late, don’t take over the session and ask what was missed.
  • Come open-minded. Do your best not to be swayed by “what everybody else says” about certain schools. When students and families return from a visit to North Carolina State University (, I’m always tickled by their common response, “It wasn’t nearly as ugly as I expected and everyone seemed so happy.”
  • Be considerate of the other families visiting. Remember the basic stuff such as turning off your phone or other electronics, limiting personal conversations amongst yourselves or trying to focus the group’s attention on your particular student.
  • Live in the moment. Take a few photos but don’t try to record the entire Information Session or the one-hour campus tour.
  • Take good notes. I encourage everyone to write-up their impressions. As a parent, you are likely to “hear” different things than your child has heard. I also ask students to compile everyone’s notes into one document because six or eight months later it’s likely you will have forgotten why you liked or disliked a college so much.
  • Don’t be condescending. Once you’ve done two or three campus visits you’ll probably be able to deliver the campus tour schpeel yourself, but remember these are students who love their school and are trying to share valuable information.
  • Wander the campus separately. After the Information Session and the tour are over, walk around the campus on your own, if allowed.  See if your child can have a one-one conversation with a student (outside is great) is on their own, hopefully they’ll ask some good questions and then be able to articulate what they like most and least about their campus visit experience.
  • Let your kids go first. As you drive to the next campus visit or home, let your child share their impressions before you share yours.

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