Get beyond the marketing hype of college brochures and visit the campus yourself to see what a college is really like. Before you hit the road, let’s tackle some of the questions we hear most  from our students:

Are college visits important? Can’t I learn everything I need to know from the website?

College visits are an extremely valuable tool for any student trying to find their best-fit college. Visits can help answer questions brochures never could–there isn’t a brochure in the world that can tell you if you’ll feel at home when you set foot on campus. Dr. Sybil Gohari, founder of Admissions Company, notes: “While it may be tempting, it’s important not to form any lasting opinions about a college until you’ve visited the campus. Glossy brochures and websites are designed to look attractive, but touring a campus will give you a wealth of information you can only learn from first-hand experience.”

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Can these visits impact my chances of admission?

It’s possible. An applicant who visits a college and is pleasant and collegial during the visit has a slight advantage over one who never visits or provides the college with a negative experience during her or his visit. Colleges may gauge an applicant’s seriousness by gathering data points from beyond the application itself. One such item is whether you’ve visited the campus which can demonstrate a real interested in attending an institution.

When should I visit?

Ideally, plan to visit during the regular academic year when you can get a more thorough and detailed perspective on campus life. The summer is often a families’ only chance to get away. So when you go on a summer campus visit, remember that you may not get the whole picture. Try to supplement the tour with more information, such as conversations with students or alumni, particularly those who also attended your high school.

Try not to pack too many colleges into a single road trip. Gohari offers the following rule of thumb: “If you’re only applying to five or fewer colleges, you may bundle all visits in one trip during the same week. If you’re applying to 10 or more schools – which is increasingly the trend – then divide these into three to four trips. While this advice may seem counterintuitive, expensive and time-consuming, there is significant basis for it in truth. If you spend a week traveling and visiting seven schools, then by the fifth school, you’re likely to be physically and emotionally drained and lack the objectivity to have a worthwhile experience.”

Should I schedule a tour or explore the campus at my own pace?

Do both! Guided tours will provide you with a polished and selective view, highlighting the major points of interest on campus and answering some of the more frequently asked questions. This is your opportunity to check that box telling the college you’re interested in attending and ask questions. Remember that guided tours are usually given by students who love their school and want you to love it too.

Unguided tours are important because they can help you develop your own, unbiased perspective of the college. You want to feel at ease and welcome, which is something you can only get a feel for while exploring the campus for yourself. On your own, you may also be able to visit the athletic complex or science lab that really interests you, provided the building is publicly accessible.

Are there any particular questions you recommend I ask while on a tour?

Gohari outlines Admissions Company’s three basic rules for questions on tours: “First, don’t ask questions if the answer is on the website. You need to read the site before visiting. Second, don’t ask negative questions about a college’s reputation. You’ll never get an answer that is unbiased, and you will only stand out in a negative way. Finally, don’t engage in a debate if you don’t like the answer you hear. A campus tour is not a debate forum. Your tour guide is most likely a student who’s just doing her or his job.”