Deciphering different college visit options to build your ideal visit
If you are in your college search, you’ve probably already heard this important piece of advice: it is important to visit the colleges you are considering, whether that’s virtually or in person. However, once you actually dive into a college’s website, you’re overwhelmed with options. Should you do a campus tour or a virtual visit? An open house or a specialty visit? What even is an interview, and should you do one?
And if you’re anything like many people, you’re caught up in the paradox of choice: we all love options, but when there are too many, we tend to become paralyzed and end up doing nothing.
In order to make sure that doesn’t happen for you, let’s outline the different types of college visits and why you should choose each one.
Obvious disclaimer: every college is completely different. We’re speaking from the experience of Agnes Scott College, as well as some other colleges we know. When in doubt, your best bet is to ask an admission counselor at the college; we’re always happy to help you find the visit that’s right for you.
To do this, let’s split your college search into three phases: exploration, refinement and decision.
In this phase, you’re trying to decide if a school should be on your list for applications or not. There are hundreds of universities in the country (and more internationally), and statistically you will apply to less than ten. Exploring your options to determine how they might end up on your list is a great idea.
If you’re in this phase, you might be most interested in:
- Viewing a Virtual Tour: Many schools have virtual tour options (Agnes Scott’s is here). The virtual tour is a no-stakes way for you to see a campus and learn more about different areas of interest. This can also usually be done any time without a registration.
- Attend a Virtual Visit: There are many types of virtual visits, but in general, a virtual visit option is a great way to learn more about a college without needing to go to the time or expense of visiting the campus in person. You can take a look at the different types of virtual visits available at a school; at Agnes Scott, we have a general virtual visit led by a current Scottie that talks about the basics of Agnes Scott and lets you ask that student questions. We also offer virtual workshops to help you through your application process (this year on the application, the college essay and scholarships/financial aid.
- Meet with the college in your hometown or school: During the fall semester, a lot of admission counselors are out on the road meeting with students in high schools or in coffee shops. It’s a great opportunity to get an overview of a school and get specific questions you may have answered. Keep an eye on your email and information from your school to know when they are coming!
You’re pretty sure that you like a college or university and that you will likely apply. Now you’re getting your questions answered and gearing up for the application process. What’s next?
- Open House Events: Open House events, like Agnes Scott’s Great Scott, are opportunities for you to learn more about a school in a larger setting. The great news is they are often on weekends, meaning you and your supporters might have more free time, and they often allow you to meet with admission counselors, current students and members of the college’s faculty or staff. For Agnes Scott, we even offer a virtual version if you live too far away to attend the in-person open house events.
- Campus Tour: Want something a little more one-on-one? Want the chance to talk to current students and admission counselors in a more individualized way? That’s when a campus tour really comes in handy. These often happen frequently (at Agnes Scott, usually twice a day Monday through Friday) which allows some flexibility. You can also take multiple campus tours if you want to focus on different things or bring different people with you.
- Admission Interview: At Agnes Scott, admission interviews are optional for all students who are applying for fall admission (so, current seniors and transfer students). Admission interviews may happen in person or virtually, depending on the institution, and they are great opportunities for you to give context to your application, discuss your interests and goals and learn more about the college.
Congratulations, you’ve been admitted to colleges! Now you just have to decide where you want to attend. Easy, right? Well, it can be easier if you take advantage of the visit opportunities offered.
- Admitted Student Visits: Many colleges and universities host special visit days for admitted students in the spring. These visits are opportunities not only for you to get all of your questions answered, they also are a great way to meet other admitted students who might be your future classmates, roommates and friends. These visits are often on campus, but some may be hosted virtually as well. We encourage you to go to as many of these events as you can to help you make your decision.
- Specialty Visits: Colleges may host visits or events virtually or in person that are for specific groups of students. Some colleges host events specifically for Black students, for example, or for students interested in STEM. Agnes Scott has in the past hosted specialty virtual and in person events for students in STEM, in the arts and humanities and in the social sciences. These types of visits are great ways to meet others who are interested in your specific field of interest in addition to learning more.
- Conversations: These might happen virtually, over the phone or in person, but when you are in the decision-making stage of the college search process they can be the most helpful piece of the puzzle. These are conversations with specific people on campus around specific topics. It might be a conversation with your admission counselor to walk through your financial aid package and options. Maybe it’s a conversation with the Office of Accessible Education to make sure you have the accommodations you need. Maybe it’s a quick chat with a student in the major you are interested in. These individual conversations can really help you hone in on the things that are important to you when choosing a college.
Of course, there’s no reason you have to do things in this order- it’s just a suggestion of ways to get started if you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s no wrong way to do this; it’s just about finding what works for you. We’ve had students who have never seen campus until after they enroll. We’ve also had students who have been on 10+ tours of our campus. The best campus visit for you is one you attend and learn from, whatever it looks like.
We hope that this post inspires you to schedule the visit you’ve been waiting for. We’ll see you soon!