When Should High School Students Start Visiting Colleges?

Visiting colleges is a rite of passage for high school students today. While you can look at images online, go over college catalogs and even pour over the materials that those schools send you, nothing beats seeing the campus for yourself. That visit lets you see the type of students attending the school, try out the food in the cafeterias and even sit in on a few classes. The best time to start visiting those colleges is when you start your search for the best school.

Types of College Visits

There are two different types of campus visits that you can do today. The first is a more basic visit that lets you take a tour of the campus with a student who also acts as your tour guide. Tour guides are generally knowledgeable about the campus and can answer any questions you have, including the best cafeterias, the average test scores of applicants and clubs and activities available on campus. Many colleges offer overnight visits as well. You can actually spend a night in a dorm room on campus with real students and follow them around for an entire day.

When to Visit

Ryan Lytle of U.S. News & World Report recommends that you start visiting campuses early in your high school career. Though some students wait until their senior years, Lytle points out that seniors have busy schedules and may not have enough time available to take a full tour. Some suggest taking tours while on family vacations in the summer, but many colleges have fewer students taking classes in the summer and may not have as many events or activities taking place too. You generally want to plan a tour during your freshmen, sophomore or junior year and tour campuses during the fall or spring semester.

Related: How Many Colleges Should I Visit Before Applying?

What to Look for

Visiting colleges gives you the chance to see how well you fit in on each campus. You should take the time to sit in on at least one class, especially if you already know what you want to major in when you go to college. Take the time to speak with students on campus too. Find out why they chose that campus, what they like best about the school and what they like to do after their classes. You may also want to talk with some of the professors working on campus, stop by a few of the activities you want to do and check out the recreation centers.

Virtual Tours

Taking a campus tour isn’t always possible. You might live hours or thousands of miles away from the school you want to attend. That is why a large number of colleges now offer virtual tours online. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can take a complete tour of that campus. You’ll see what the students look like, where they like to hang out and even the interiors and exteriors of main buildings on campus. Virtual tours are available every day of the week too and are tours you can take as a freshman or a senior.

You should never enroll in college without first taking a tour of that campus. Visiting colleges is something you should do during your senior year or earlier, but you can also take virtual campus tours now as well.