Return to List of Articles

How to Make the Most of Your Campus Visit:
A Guide for Prospective College Students

Visiting prospective colleges can be a big help in selecting the right college. Hopefully, these suggestions will assist you in planning and evaluating your campus visit.

Purpose of Campus Visitation

Visiting a college campus will provide firsthand impressions for you and your family. You will learn about the people, programs, facilities, and in general, learn a great deal by being on campus and discussing your college plans with a college official. Your interview with an admissions officer should entail readiness to talk about yourself, your college plans, and to seek information about the college and its relationship to you. Then, too, the exchange of information and the impressions gained on both sides, yours and the colleges, during the interview, should be meaningful.

Some Preliminary Steps

  • Before you start thinking about visiting any college, some "homework" is in order. The first step is to begin looking through your school's collection of college reference materials. You will want to become acquainted with such publications as The College Board Handbook, Lovejoy's College Guide, and many other materials available at the Guidance Office. Certainly, you will want to start thinking about the kind of institution that interests you: large or small, four-year or two year, co-educational, etc.

  • Talk over your preliminary ideas about college with your family and your school counselor.

  • Write to several colleges that seem to meet your general needs, interests and pocketbook. You will find the college's catalog usually contains information on its programs, admission requirements, finances, etc. Study the catalog. Evaluate each institution in terms of your own interests and aptitudes.

  • Narrow your list of prospective colleges to about one-half dozen. Write to your top choices and ask for an appointment to visit each of them. Write for an appointment 2-3 weeks in advance of your proposed visit.

  • To save time and money you will probably try to include colleges in the same geographical area on the same trip. If an overnight stay is involved, be sure to make reservations considerably in advance.
Just Before You Visit
  • Reread the catalog, especially the section on admission requirements, tuition, scholarship data, and programs of study.

  • Look back over your high school record so that you can answer general questions about your academic performance in high school and your scores on standardized tests.
Tips on Your Visit
  • Allow enough time to get the feel of the campus. A two-hour visit should give ample opportunity for a fairly extensive tour, plus a chat with the admissions office. In general, it is a good idea to limit yourself to touring two colleges in a single day. If possible, after the official visit, spend your own time walking around and seeing the sites.

  • Be prompt.

  • Pick up an application form and a campus map.

  • Don't hesitate to discuss finances, including scholarships, loans, and work opportunities.

  • Do feel free to ask for an estimate for your chances for admission, but don't expect any firm commitment at this time.
Some Musts For Your Campus Tour
  • The College Library: Even a ten minute visit can tell you something about the size and scope of its collection, study facilities, specialized areas such as listening rooms, etc.

  • Academic Facilities: You may have an opportunity to sit in on a class or a seminar. If you are a future science or engineering major, try to visit a typical undergraduate laboratory. If languages are your specialty, you may be interested in seeing the language lab.

  • Living Quarters: Try to visit a typical dormitory, dining hall, student lounge and recreation area. If there are fraternity or sorority houses on campus, you may want to see one of these too.

  • Students: It is important to get some idea of the kind of people you will live and work with on campus. If a student guide accompanies you on your tour, feel free to ask about any aspects of college life. They will no doubt welcome some clues about your interests, sports, etc., and may include a visit to the headquarters of such activities if time permits.
What About Your Parents?

Should your parents accompany you? This is up to you. Parents are often interested in seeing their children's prospective colleges. Most colleges welcome parents. However, when they interview a candidate, they like to have some time alone with the student. If parents are helping to foot the bill, surely they should be included in your tour.

After Your Visit

Make some notes on your reactions to the college. They will be useful later, when you are trying to evaluate various instructions and they may suggest some additional points for discussion with your guidance counselor or parents.

If you are definitely interested in the college, follow through by filing your formal application as soon as possible. If you are not interested, don't consider your visit a waste of time. Chances are, you will have learned a lot about the kind of college you want and about what other colleges are likely to expect of you.


Visiting a campus can be a valuable guide for the college-bound. By doing some homework ahead of time and some realistic evaluations afterwards, you can make the most of this experience. Good Luck!

Contributed By:

R. Fred Zuker, Ph.D.
University of Dallas
Dean of Undergraduate Admission,
Financial Aid and Student Life

Take the First Step | Plan in Middle School | Plan in High School
Choose a College | Get Accepted | Obtain Financial Aid |
Communicate | Survive Freshman Year |
Articles & Advice | UCTV | UCSD-TV |

©2003 Regents of the University of California.
Terms and Conditions of Use.