For many families, college visits are an important part of the college search process. But they can also be overwhelming.

That's understandable—college visits require a great deal of coordination, not to mention the monetary and time cost of travel. We promise that you can make your college visits richly informative and even fun experiences rather than sources of anxiety. Read below to find some helpful tips to make the most of your time.

Simplify

College visits can be time consuming and costly, but careful planning will help you streamline the process.

First, think of the “low-hanging fruit.” Are there local schools you are interested in seeing? Could you visit after school or on the weekend? College visits don't need to be epic journeys. Sometimes the best options are right in your backyard!

It’s also helpful to group schools geographically, then combine school visits with family vacations. Are you planning to visit grandma in Maryland over spring break? That might be a great time to check out Johns Hopkins and GW! School visits don’t need to take away from everything else you have going on.

Register for Tours and Information Sessions

Tour and Information Session registrations can be found on the admissions pages of school websites. While most schools have multiple dates and times to choose from, it’s important to plan ahead, as these sessions do occasionally fill up! Make sure these visits are scheduled through the admissions office, as many schools track your interactions with their community.

If you are a senior, make sure to look into interview options as well. Many schools will provide this opportunity to prospective candidates instead of asking them to come back or do a remote interview.

Time Your Visit Appropriately

We’ve worked with many students who start our time together by detailing their lengthy summer plans for visiting colleges. While you may be able to schedule a tour and information session over the summer, it's important to recognize the major disadvantage of a summer visit: you won’t get to see the campus when it’s really alive!

Although it might be convenient to visit when you’re on summer break, it’s important to think about what you hope to get out of a college visit. Do you want to meet with current students? Do you want to see the hustle and bustle of campus, or get a sense of school pride? Then going while class is not in session probably isn’t the best idea. These visits should allow you to envision yourself at a particular school; it’s hard to do that when you’re not seeing the school on a typical day!

Be Prepared

You’ll want to bring a bag to carry any handouts, a notebook or iPad, a camera or smartphone, and a water bottle to stay hydrated as you’re running around campus!

While each school gives their visitors a unique look at admissions and campus life, you can imagine that after five or six visits they start to blend together. By taking detailed notes and pictures to document your visit, you’ll get the most out of your visit and make the decision process down the road much easier. It’s also important to remember that many applications use ‘Why this school?’ as an essay prompt. The information you gather on your visits can help answer these questions with ease! You can also use our College Visit Worksheet to help guide your observations on campus.

Finally, keep in mind that many students apply to college without ever having physically visited. If you are unable to see a school before submitting an application, don’t fret! Although an in-person visit is preferred, sometimes finances or other circumstances don’t allow you to visit every school on your list, and that’s okay. Many schools offer virtual visits that allow you to get a feel for the campus without leaving home. Additionally, colleges often offer admitted students events (and may even cover the cost of your visit), which are a great way to get exposure to a school after you’ve been accepted.

Want more tips on planning your next trip to campus? Check out our Guide to College Visits.