From the name of our site (SmartCollegeVisit), it’s pretty clear that we are huge fans of visiting colleges. The question we are asked most often is “When should I visit?” Some times this question is referring to the age a child should be when visiting colleges; other times, it refers to what year in high school or what time of year is best.
Regardless of the intent, there is no absolute right answer to the question as there are many options for incorporating campus visits into your life.
Drive-through Campus Visits – perfect for any age
On the way to grandma’s house? Out for an afternoon drive? Or, on a business trip? If you see a road sign for a college along the way, why not take a scenic drive through the campus? In general, college campuses are well maintained, beautiful places to visit with interesting histories and architecture. At the very least, you’ll leave knowing more than had you driven by instead of through campus.
Walk-in Campus Visit – restrictions may apply
A “Walk-in” is considered someone who has not registered for a scheduled campus tour or information session and shows up unexpected. Many colleges have an open door policy and welcome or expect walk-ins. However, there are a growing number of colleges and universities with structured campus tours and information session hours restrictions related with limited seating for registered visitors only. This does not mean these schools are unfriendly. Just the opposite, they want their guests to be as comfortable as possible when visiting campus and, in order to do so, they require registration so planning can take place.
Does this mean you should never be a “walk-in” on a college visit? No, but it won’t hurt to call ahead or search the school’s web site to learn whether or not registration is required or to find out if there is a self-guided tour available for download via the web or for your smartphone. At the very least, the admissions office or visitor center should have a campus map avaialble if you can’t pariticate in a formal tour.
Registerd Campus Visitor – preferred by most
Registering in advance gives you an advantage over the other campus visit options in that you’ve secured a seat, you’re in the “system” (meaning, you’ll be in the loop to receive a visit confirmation, agendas, updates or changes, etc.) and you can begin making travel plans and deciding which questions you want answered during your visit.
Campus visit planning tip: create an email address that the teen and parents will share access to and that is just used for college search. Everyone will appreciate being in the loop and it’s less likely that important information about your visit will get missed.
So, what kind of campus visitor will you be?