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How to Visit a College You Might Attend

Princeton University campus building

Taking the campus tour shows you the scenery, but immersing yourself in the campus scene shows you the whole story.

If you are deciding where to apply and especially where to attend, spending serious time on campus may be one of the best moves you ever made.

Before You Go

  • Arrange to stay overnight. Experiencing student dorm life is a real eye-opener. The admissions office may set this up, or use your own connections.
  • Go when classes are in full swing. It won't get more real than that.
  • Let your parents take a back seat. It's best if you visit the campus on your own.
  • Learn factual information in advance. Don't waste your time asking about data that is on the college's website or on CollegeData.
  • Write down your must-have college qualities. Check out the same factors on each visit.

While You Are There

  • Take the campus tour (again). If you took the tour during another visit, you will see the campus through new eyes this time. Ask the tour guide for candid answers about the school.
  • Check out campus life. Spend time in the dorms, dining halls, and student center. Check out the student radio station and bulletin boards. Visit with members of clubs, sports teams, and fraternities or sororities.
  • Meet college staff. A financial aid officer can discuss costs and financial aid. An admissions officer can answer any application questions you have.
  • Go to classes and talk with professors. The admissions office may help you arrange this.
  • Interview students. Ask what they like and don't like about the school. What would they change? What do they do on weekends? Where do they live?
  • Chat up students casually. Some college visitors report that asking directions reveals how friendly students are.
  • Check out the surroundings. Where do students live off campus? Where do they hang out? How pleasant and safe is the area?
  • Get practical. Is the campus easy to get around? Are the buildings in good shape? What safety measures are in place?

Tips for a Productive Visit

  • Bring a campus map or download a map app. This helps you hit the ground running. If you are driving, locate visitor parking lots in advance.
  • Take photos and bring a notebook. This will help jog your memory back at home.
  • Pick up a course catalog. It may be invaluable later.
  • Send thank-you notes. Show your appreciation to the professors and staff you met.

What's Next?

If you feel ready to make your final college list, take a look at Making Your First (Serious) College List for tips on creating a well-considered list.

If you have not started your Admissions Tracker Profile, set one up so you can track your college list over time and see who else is applying to your colleges.