Spring break is right around the corner and pre-collegiettes from all across the country are beginning to plan their long-awaited college visits. It is a prime time for visiting colleges and checking out which schools pique your interest. Between taking standardized tests and keeping up your grades, there are enough things to worry about junior year—so have no fear, because we're here to help.
Roxie Garber, a college counselor at Riverwood High School in Atlanta, Georgia highly advises that high school juniors visit colleges during their spring breaks. If you have a long list of schools you’re visiting over spring break, make note of things to help narrow them down!
Schedule your visit
When you’re scheduling your college visits, check out each school’s admissions page on their website. You can usually sign up for tours and info sessions online. Call the admissions office to ask for more information on fun things to do on the campus during your visit, such as local restaurants, attractions and more. If you're not able to sign up for tours online, call the admissions office to talk about scheduling options.
Decide when to visit
Most high schools have different spring breaks than colleges do, so high school spring break is a great opportunity to see what the school’s environment is like while the campuses are filled with students. In addition, make sure you don’t visit during the college’s finals or midterms week, because students will be stressed and that could easily skew your perspective. Don’t forget to check the spring break dates of the colleges you plan on visiting so you don’t accidentally schedule your tour for a day when no one is on campus. You can find college spring breaks through the school’s academic calendar on their website.
Stick to one region
It’s important to stick to schools in one region so you can use your time wisely. You don’t want to waste too much time traveling, so visit a cluster of schools that are near each other every time you take a college visit road trip. If there’s a school nearby that you aren’t in love with but you think you might be interested in, visit and have an open mind! You never know how you will feel about a school until you’ve visited and taken a tour. Take a long weekend or another school vacation to visit schools that are not in that region, but are still high on your list.
Plan out the length of the trip
When it comes to actually visiting the school, you should give yourself about a day and a half or two days per region. Doing so will give you the chance to not only visit the campus, but to check out the surrounding town as well. Definitely spend a decent amount of time in the city or town surrounding the campus because it could be the town you live in for the next four years! Check out the restaurant scene and shopping scene, and even pay attention to the locals. You want to be surrounded by people who are happy to be there, even if they aren’t college students.
What to do on your visit
There are so many things to do and so little time to do them when it comes to visiting colleges! Garber is a major proponent of sitting in on the initial info session, especially because it provides opportunities to hear questions from other parents and students. Taking the official tour and sitting in on a class if you can is also important because it lets you see the school from a wider perspective. It’s also a great idea to pick up the school newspaper so you get an idea of what’s going on around campus.
Who to visit with
Stephanie, a student at Indiana University, recommends going with your parents to get a better feel for the school, without being too distracted by having fun with your friends. Garber feels strongly about students making the initial college visit with just their parents, because in the long run, they are going to be paying for the education and looking out for your best interests. It’s important to realize that your parents are likely to be the ones who will ask your tour guide about safety, financial aid and other important things that you may be afraid to ask. It’s a great opportunity for parents and students to learn more about what the students like and don’t like in a college. You can always have the conversation when you get home but it's not the same as being there and experiencing it with your family.
Talk to students you know
Michaela from Framingham High School says, "If you know someone at the school, ask them to show you around because they can show you the school in a way that a tour guide couldn’t." You’ll get an entirely new perspective by speaking to someone who knows the ins and outs of the school. Not only will talking to a student and asking questions help you get a fresh perspective, but it will also make you feel more at home at an unfamiliar campus.
Get organized after the visit
When you are finished with your trip, get organized and categorize the schools in terms of how you feel about them. Leila is visiting schools in DC during her spring break. "I made a spreadsheet on Excel to fill out for each school so I could ask myself questions that I couldn’t find on the website," she says. For example, Leila looked into whether the classes were taught by TAs or professors, whether or not Greek life was big on campus and the competitiveness of academic life. She found this information by visiting the school and speaking with students on the campuses. To help keep track of everything, take notes during your info sessions and tours.
You got this!
After you get organized, take a deep breath and realize that this is a wonderful and exciting process. It can get complicated with all of the factors to consider, but visiting schools is a great process, and an awesome way to bond with your parents. What are you most excited about when it comes to visiting colleges? Comment below!