Spring Campus Visits

Recommended Campus Visit Stops

By Chuck Hughes

Former Harvard Admissions Officer/Founder, Road To College


With March and April breaks upon us, many juniors (and some sophomores) will trek to college campuses around the country taking a closer look at schools that might be good fits for them.  Sitting in on an information session and taking a campus tour is just not enough to determine whether a particular college is the perfect match, let alone serve as the sole reason your parents should spend upwards of $65,000 per year to send you to a campus you see for three hours and then deem it as the sole college for you. While one visit, even for a full day, will not provide all you need to know, here are some ideas to think about as you prepare to head off on your college visits this spring and summer to make those precious hours more valuable for you and your parents. 


1)      Admissions Office – Information Session/Tour/Interview (if applicable)

PRE-PLAN – Go online and download campus maps, apps for the university and create a schedule for what you hope to see during your visit.


Remember that some schools require that you pre-register for the information session and/or tours. Getting your name into a school’s enrollment management system is positive in terms of receiving marketing materials and for displaying demonstrated interest.


If you are a strong communicator, having an on-campus interview is a valuable tool for connecting with an admissions representative who may have direct involvement in your admissions case, and it also shows another level of interest in the university. Many schools that offer interviews begin offering interviews in the May-June time frame for rising seniors, but some schools will interview juniors in March and April.


Ask for a business card of the student or admissions officer conducting the information session. Some schools are active in communicating with prospective applicants, so having a card to send a thank you after the information session or for later questions is great.


2)      Eat a Meal on Campus

Find out where the students eat every day and whether the facilities and food quality meet expectations. Most colleges will allow students to purchase a meal in a dining hall, and some admissions offices might provide vouchers to eat a meal on campus for free.  Let’s face it food is central to so many elements of the college experience, so it makes perfect sense to making stopping for lunch at one of the dining halls a great idea.


Here are some things to consider when it comes to campus cuisine: Will you be eating at Pizza shops every day or is the quality of the university meal plans serviceable? Ask people about the food, but see for yourself and have a meal if possible. Are the dining halls empty, or are they empty because students never eat in the university dining halls because the food is not great? Is there a campus meal plan that allows you to use those dollars to eat at local restaurants?


3)      Visit the Academic Department that Interest You Most

Is the department cramped in a basement office with little opportunity to congregate as a field, or are their library resources, common study areas and conference rooms for those in the major to interact?


Look at the resources available to the faculty - # of faculty, classes offered and facilities to make observations of the university commitment to the department.

Is the administrator cordial and helpful? Do students/faculty members stop to answer your questions?


4)      Student Center – Recreation, Athletics/Fitness – Where do Students Socialize, Work-out, etc.?

Students are more and more focused on fitness. Ask if you can see the pool, check-out the cardio facilities or see the yoga/spin studios if the schools have such facilities.


Take 10-15 minutes and sit in the student center to see if it is a place that attracts undergraduates during the day.


Common areas – do the academic buildings and other open areas of campus have common space that encourages people to come together.


5)      Computing Centers, Classrooms, and Lecture Halls

Most colleges offer classes open to prospective students. You may need to register to sit in on a class, or the admissions office may provide you with a list of courses available for you to visit during the semester, but also walk through the areas where you might be studying, researching and spending good chunks of time during the academic day.


6)      See the Dorms and Explore Residential Life

Sometimes difficult to gain access outside of a tour, but worth seeing the single, double and triple rooms that colleges offer students. If a tour does not show you a room, you want to connect with a friend before a visit to see if he/she might show you his/her room to see undergraduate housing.


7)      Talk with Someone or Visit Student Club/Organizations You’d Like to Join

Visit the newspaper office, the athletic department, theatre(s), student volunteer group, the student activities center and organizations you’d most like to visit. Finding where the student organizations are located and what they have to offer can give you a better sense of community.


8)      Visit Campus Museums or Exhibits On-campus

You might want to look ahead to open lectures, museums and special exhibits that appeal to you.


9)      Explore on your own!

Getting off the beaten path and seeing some of the non-structured touring information can be interesting and helpful.


10)    Talk with Undergraduates

Get a sense of campus life from the students directly.  You need to hear what students like and would improve about their experience. 


Take notes, make observations, and think about trip before, during and after the experience to make some well-informed opinions vs. simply emotional decisions based on the traffic, size, location, admissions tour and “feel” without considering the long-term and day to day experiences you’ll have on the campus. Most of all have fun on these visits and begin picturing yourself on each of these campuses. You’ll be there before you know it.


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