College Campus Visits
How important are college visits anymore — especially since most schools now offer DVDs and virtual tours?
What college or university today does not give potential applicants multiple outlets for touring the campus — from videos, virtual tours, and Webcams to the old standard, an actual campus visit? But with all these multimedia choices, how important is it for prospective students to tour the campus in person? The responses may surprise you.
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Paul Thiboutot, Carleton College
Nothing can replace the experience of attending a class, eating in a dining hall, staying overnight in a dorm or talking directly with students at a college. Virtual tours and DVDs are great, but finally spatially limited and static in time. If you cannot visit, then they are a better alternative than just looking at pictures in a viewbook. However the personal visit to a campus is what will reveal those special characteristics that come from its environment, architecture and the people who inhabit the halls, rooms and classes and create a particular college atmosphere.
Susan E. Donovan, Syracuse University
While virtual tours and DVDs are very useful to students who are starting the investigation process and may not be able to visit, they do not replace the value of an actual campus visit. Like publications, virtual tours and DVD’s are produced and edited to present a college. When students can actually be on the campus, and interact with current students, faculty and administrators, they are much better able to judge for themselves whether a campus feels right.
Gary L. Ross, Colgate University
Common sense would suggest — and surveys prove — that the college visit is still the most important and meaningful factors in making a college decision. Websites, virtual tours, and DVD’s can be and are incredibly helpful in the overall college search process, but they simply do not equate to actually being on a campus, physically touring the grounds, and picturing life there for the next four years. By the end of a campus visit, students should have a good grasp on the “feel” of a school — and should be able to sense whether that particular school is a good fit. It’s like looking at a picture of an apple as opposed to actually eating an apple; the picture may be beautiful, but you’re simply not going to experience the whole apple unless you physically pick it up and try it.
It may also be helpful to keep in mind that most schools have a variety of visit opportunities. Many students will visit in either the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year, but each student should visit when convenient and comfortable. Tours, information sessions, overnight hosting, and class visits are options most colleges provide. Additionally, be aware of special visit opportunities — whether an accepted students day in April, a fall open house for seniors, or a just for juniors head start on the process. Many of these special visit opportunities go above and beyond to make campus resources, faculty, and staff available to you — so take advantage of it.
Alicia Ortega, Oregon State University
College visits are crucial! Virtual tours and DVDs provide a way to access information from the comfort of your own home or school’s college center and can help to narrow down the number of colleges in which to visit. But in my opinion nothing can replace the real thing. Finding the college, navigating the parking system, seeing real students (maybe even asking them for directions!), smelling the smells, and getting a feel for a campus is something that simply cannot be done online. For many of the students I have worked with over the years, visiting a college and trying to envision spending four, five or even six years of their lives there is the make it or break it point.
Make the investment of time and money to visit your top college choices in person, you’ll be glad you did.
Back to our main page: Answers to Common College Admissions Questions.
Get More College Planning Resources
Quintessential Careers is your source for college, careers, and job-search information, resources, tools, and links. Go to our Go to College — College Planning Resources section.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.