Countdown to College Blog
The spring semester could easily be renamed the College Visit Season. Juniors are making the rounds trying to settle on the list of colleges to which they will apply and seniors are attending admitted student events to help them make their final decision on where to enroll. Some sophomores even dip their toes into the wonderful world of campus tours! Knowing that many CCS families will be heading out to various college campuses for tours over the next few months, we have put together this guide for what to expect.
Which sophomores should be visiting colleges?
If a sophomore has been talking about college options without the prompting of parents bringing up the topic, they are ready to take campus tours and explore their options. If possible, a good starting point would be a virtual college visit or the NACAC College Fair on March 23 (more details on that event here), but in-person college visits are also appropriate for sophomores who are independently curious about college options. If your sophomore is not talking about college options yet, no worries! There’s plenty of time for visits during the junior year when your child is more ready to seriously consider college choices.
When should we schedule college visits?
Most of our students do not want to miss school for a college visit, so targeting days when CCS is not in session is advised. It’s also ideal to target days when the college is in session so you can see students walking around campus. Visiting while a college is on break or during the summer is only partially helpful, especially for seniors who are trying to make their final decision.
Whenever you choose to visit, register well in advance! Campus tours fill up quickly.
How many colleges should we visit in a day?
We recommend visiting no more than two colleges in one day. Each visit lasts about 2 to 2.5 hours, so one college in the morning and another in the afternoon will work well. Be sure to check travel time between campuses if you’re doing two colleges in one day and factor in time to grab lunch in between your visits.
What’s the difference between an Open House and a weekday campus visit?
Many colleges offer 1-2 Saturday Open House events each semester. These events can accommodate a large number of students and will last for most of the day, often including lunch. You will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of presenters (the admission team, professors, a panel of students and/or financial aid representatives) and will gain more information than on a weekday visit. That said, most college campuses look fairly quiet on a non-game day Saturday morning so you won’t see many students out and about unless they are part of the Open House program.
A weekday visit will be shorter than an Open House and will only include a campus tour and an information session, but you’ll be able to observe students walking to and from class and spending time with friends in the student union and/or dining hall.
What will we see on the campus tour?
Most tours take you to the highlights of campus such as the library, student union, academic buildings, dining hall, and wellness center. Some colleges also include a residence hall on their tour. And, when possible, athletic facilities are also included. The tour will be led by a student who has been trained by the admission office.
What should we expect from the information session?
This program will be led by a member of the admission team and generally includes a brief video and a presentation about the academic and student life distinctives on that campus. Colleges often include an overview of the admission process and information about what they are looking for in successful applicants. Some leave time for a Q&A and some do not; read the room to know if it’s okay to ask questions at the end.
Can we add extras to our campus visit?
Yes, there are times when an admission office will offer extras such as the opportunity to meet with a professor in a certain program, eat lunch in a dining hall, or even allow the student to spend the night with a current student in their residence hall. Most colleges will allow families to schedule a one-on-one meeting with an admission officer to ask questions (note that this is not an interview but instead is an opportunity for the student to ask questions). These extras are especially helpful for seniors making their final decision. Inquire with the admission office to see what extras they offer, keeping in mind that the smaller the college, the more likely that they will be able to accommodate your request.
If the college doesn’t provide the extras, you can still arrange some on your own. Students (not parents) should feel free to email the department head of the major they are considering to ask if they can meet while they are on campus to learn more about the major. Students often have friends who attend a certain college who would be willing to host them overnight too. Additionally, check out the campus ministries and churches near the campus to learn more about opportunities for students to get plugged in with the Christian community. We are glad to help you get connected with the leaders of campus ministries, who are often glad to meet prospective families for coffee or lunch and willing to bring along a student involved in their ministry.
Do you need to do extras? No! Add these to your visit only if they would be helpful to you.
Do colleges still offer virtual visits?
Yes, most colleges have some form of virtual tour on their website and several still offer live virtual visits too. This is a great way to check out a college before you make the commitment of traveling to campus.
Should we follow up with the admission office after our visit?
If your student loves a particular college, it can be helpful for the student (not the parent) to email our designated admission officer to briefly introduce themselves and share a few things they liked on their visit. If you are not sure who our admission officer is, we will be glad to help you get connected.
What questions should we ask on our campus visit?
Check out this previous blog from March 2021 for ideas of questions you might want to ask.
A few final pro-tips for you:
- When choosing the colleges you will visit, add one to your list that allows your child to see something different from what they think they want. For example, if your child is all-in on large universities, perhaps add a midsize or small college to the mix. While this might confirm their preference for large universities, it also might open their eyes to a different option that they discover they like.
- Aim to get your tour guide off script. You will find that tour guides are trained to share certain scripted information at specific points on the tour, but as you walk from one place to another they are willing to chat with students and parents about anything. In these moments, ask questions that get them off their script to learn more about their real impressions of the college.
- Take notes! The colleges start to swirl together in your mind after a while and notes really help!
Not sure where to visit? You might find the college search tools available in Scoir or Find Your Christian College to be helpful. We will also be providing college suggestions to all juniors during Junior Seminar (look for these suggestions in their Scoir account no later than mid-February) and are glad to offer suggestions to sophomores too. We hope our college counseling office will be a helpful resource for you at every step of this process.
Director of College Counseling