When it comes to making a decision about college, even the slickest brochures and websites can only go so far to convince you a school is perfect for you. When it comes to experiencing student life, classroom culture, and what it really feels like to be on campus, seeing is believing.
But a trip to your dream school isn’t as simple as showing up and walking around. Like many things in life, when planning a campus visit, timing is everything.
Take a campus tour in the late summer just before your senior year of high school classes start.
Visit in the spring or summer before senior year
Visiting at the right time is pivotal. The College Board suggested taking a campus tour in the late summer just before your senior year of high school classes start and after college courses begin — typically in late August or early September. Going at this time will keep the visit fresh in your mind and make the decision process easier later.
Then again, many students choose to visit during the spring of junior year. This gives ample time to research and narrow lists for early decision planners. It can also be a valuable time for a visit if you normally play fall sports or if you plan on making multiple trips.
If possible, go when classes are in session
For the authentic experience, you may want to visit your prospective college while classes are in session so you can see the vibrancy of the college campus.
Moreover, the Princeton Review noted that some schools put together [UGA request] programs where high school students can shadow current college students to get the full experience, including residence and dining hall tours.
College and high school courses often meet at the same times. However, there are a few times you can get away from your senior classes and travel to a college. For example, some Monday holidays are not observed at colleges and are often a prime time to visit.
The bottom line
Ultimately, any time you can visit is better than forgoing the experience. It is recommended that you call in advance of your visit or consult the school’s website to understand what days and times would be best to visit campus. To avoid big crowds, you may want to stay away from spring breaks or the days leading up to Thanksgiving and winter breaks. By visiting between Monday and Thursday, you will have a more realistic experience as you watch students going to class versus a Saturday morning when students are still sleeping. Visiting on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays may not offer you the most personalized experience because those tend to be the most popular days to visit.
If distance is a deal-breaker, or your budget or schedule absolutely won’t accommodate an on-campus visit, more and more schools are now offering virtual tours online. It’s worth checking out if the real thing isn’t possible.