The arrival of summer for many families with rising seniors means college visits, sometimes lots of them! The first and most important tenet of college visits is that there is no “right” way to approach them. Do what feels comfortable for you and your child and what your budget allows. That could mean a whirlwind trip in which you see multiple campuses in the same region over just a few days. It could also mean saving visits for the top few schools that interest your child and for those that track “demonstrated interest” (see below). Some teens even prefer to visit on their own, with no parents in tow.
These days, many schools have what they call 360 degree tours online. You and your child can see a lot just sitting in your own living room. Encourage your child to research schools online. In my experience, students who do their homework can cut their preliminary list of schools substantially.
Keep in mind that time is one of your child’s most precious commodities right now. A list of 20 colleges to visit has an opportunity cost. You might consider starting with three or four visits to schools within driving distance and one long-distance destination — such as multiple schools in the same city — for students applying far from home. You can add on from there. Remember, too, that visits can extend into the school year if your child has an epiphany along the way, such as expanding geographic radius or adding large schools to a list that previously included only small ones. Make sure to include at least one safety on your travel itinerary, as it is important to treat safeties as seriously as targets and reaches throughout this process.
Some schools track what they call “demonstrated interest,” which can take place in multiple ways, including a campus visit. Demonstrated interest means what it sounds like: Your child has taken concrete action to show strong interest in a school. In that case, include an official tour and/or information session when on campus so that the admissions office records your visit. (Attending a local information session when an admissions officer from a school comes to your area can substitute for a campus visit if you cannot make the trip.)
I frequently support families in planning college visits, especially for schools that track demonstrated interest. Please reach out if you would like guidance on campus visits or any other aspect of the college admissions process.