If you’re nearing the end of your sophomore year of high school, you might be vaguely aware that college visits are on the horizon. 

With all the schools you want to visit, planning can feel overwhelming. I’m sure you have a lot of questions: How can you make the trips affordable? Can you combine multiple colleges and tours into one day? When is the best time to visit a school? What should you bring? Read below for some answers.

1. Cost Efficiency

Visiting colleges—whether they be in your state or across the country—can certainly be costly, not to mention time-consuming. My first suggestion is to start with a metropolitan area and pan out from there. A book like The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges divides college profiles by state, making it easy to choose a region and identify what colleges can be visited on a single trip. Sites like this one can also help you plan an efficient trip based on your interests and location.

Also, don’t be shy about combining family trips with complementary college visits. A regular family vacation might bring you close to some potential schools; for example, the Smithsonian Museums are located in Washington, DC, which is home to quite a few colleges! Also, visiting faraway relatives is a great excuse to explore some schools in different areas without planning a whole separate weekend trip.

If you are traveling far, and you need overnight accommodations, try calling the admissions office. Often, they have partnerships with local hotels that will offer discounted rates to visiting families.

2. Scheduling Tours

You can likely find information about when campus tours are scheduled on the admissions pages of the colleges you want to visit. Many of these websites also offer the ability to register for or schedule tours and information sessions online. This will come in handy if you plan to visit more than one college on a single day. If you are a senior, be sure to find out whether the college offers on-campus interviews to prospective students. Some students like to combine tour days with an interview while the information is fresh in their head, and to save on the cost of another trip to visit the school. If you choose to go this route, don’t forget to read our posts about preparing and dressing for interviews!

3. Time of Year

A campus visit should give you a taste of what life is normally like at that college—so make sure you’re visiting when there are students around! Check the school’s academic calendar to see when vacations and exam periods are scheduled, and avoid these times for your visit. Although it may be convenient for you to visit during your spring break, if it overlaps with the college’s spring break, there may be very few students on campus. The same goes for summer; if the campus seems empty, it is because almost everyone has gone home. Also, if the college is on a break, be sure to check with the admissions office to confirm that tours are still being held regularly.

4. What to Bring

Make sure your bag is packed with a notebook, folder (for materials the admissions offices will assuredly pass out), and a camera. While you are actually on campus, each college will feel different to you; after a few tours, however, they can tend to blend together. Taking good notes and photos of the campus will certainly help you keep details straight. Be sure to print out copies of our College Visit Worksheet  to help guide your questions and wandering, too.

Now that you’ve planned the logistics of your trip, read our post on how to visit a college campus to get the most out of your visit!