The Importance of Visiting Potential Colleges
If your high school student is planning to attend college, visiting colleges is going to be the most
important thing you do to help them make that decision. Compare this to a courtship process, in which
you wouldn’t expect to marry someone whom you had never met, because they can appear very
different on paper or on a website than they do when you meet them in person. There is no substitute
for visiting a college before making the commitment to attend.
So why visit a college? Would you marry someone over the Internet? Do you always believe the
campaign marketing material that politicians send you? You want to make sure that the college is a
perfect match for your student, and this can only be done by visiting and getting to know the personality
of the college. The other half of visiting colleges is to encourage the college to love your student,
because when the college loves your student, they’re going to give your student more money to attend
Colleges may look the same on paper, their view books may have many of the same words, and their
brochures may have all the same numbers. Even when you dig into the statistics in those phonebook-
sized college statistics books, they may look similar on paper, so make sure that you visit.
Deciding when to visit is a little complicated. The easy answer is that you should visit early and often,
and evaluate carefully. Most high school kids will visit colleges during the junior year; but it’s ok to do
this earlier, too. It’s best to complete college visits by the end of junior year, because senior year is when
you start to apply.
Sometimes colleges will have special visiting days, and will set aside a certain day just for high school
students to come take over campus in huge numbers. When you visit on those special days, they bring
out the gourmet food; they make sure the grass is freshly mowed; they make sure that everything has
just been cleaned. So things might look a little different on special days.
You can also visit a college on a regular day. Just call the admissions office and tell them when you
would like to visit. This will help you know what the food is like on a normal day, and what the
classrooms are like on a normal day you can visit a college for an overnight visit, too. Most colleges will
offer this opportunity, so you can actually get to know the night life and a little more about the college.
Whatever you do, make sure that you sign up for an official appointment with the admissions office.
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