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The Value of Visiting Colleges

Rice University

As we approach Spring Break, we hope juniors and sophomores have set up some official college tours. It can make such a difference to tour campuses when classes are in session, so if possible, don’t wait until summer!

Recognizing that we are still in a pandemic, we understand that you may not be comfortable traveling by air. Your family may have other commitments as well. However, we highly recommend that you visit campuses in person, even ones close to home, and take some official tours at these campuses. The experience is invaluable, even if the colleges you visit are not currently among your top choices.

A good plan would be to include a large public, a mid-sized private, and a small private institution, just to see the differences. In addition, we believe there are 6 really good reasons to go on college tours:

1. Visiting makes it all feel real...

... especially after two years of Covid. As this year’s juniors, you have had almost as much virtual schooling as you’ve had in-person, which may make you feel like the prospect of going away to college is coming too quickly. We get that, but we promise that as you start to visit campuses, it will begin to feel more possible. You will get more excited about your prospects and opportunities.

2. Visiting helps you discern your likes and dislikes...

... which is crucial as you start to make some final decisions about your college list this summer. In-person tours give you a better feel for the vibe of a campus. Do you feel like you fit? Do you feel at home with the environment and the students you see? How does the size feel? Did you learn things about class sizes that you liked or disliked? Or about internship opportunities? Did you like that the school had active fraternities and sororities and a spirited athletic culture, or would you prefer a college with no Greek presence and no football team? Do you prefer a college where everyone lives on campus all four years or not? These likes and dislikes are personal to you, and the best way to figure them out is through campus visits.

3. Visiting helps you get a feeling for the surrounding area.

When you visit, assess how it feels to be on a campus in the middle of a city and in a more rural area. Do you like the feeling of a small college town or do you like a suburban setting near a city? Did you like that there was a “village” to walk to? Does that feel essential to you? What will the weather be like in this location? All of these impressions help you as you solidify your list.

4. Visiting allows you to see the quality of their facilities...

... from the labs to the dormitories and dining halls. As you tour the campus, take a close look at the academic buildings, recreational facilities and the dorms. Do they appear well maintained? Are there a lot of notices for events and activities? Do the science buildings showcase student research? Can you picture yourself attending class in the campus classrooms or living in the dorm rooms?

5. Visiting gives you an idea of what the travel would be like...

... as you come and go from school for the holidays and summer break. Are you okay with a five-hour flight? Would you be comfortable taking a train or bus to get to the campus afterward? Or would you rather be closer to home?

6. Visiting can motivate you to learn more about the majors...

... and programs that your top schools offer. In-person visits allow you to listen to and ask questions of the campus tour guides as they describe the strengths of their college’s programs. You may be able to take special tours for your potential major. You will also be able to walk in and look around the departments you are interested in, read their bulletin boards, and see the students hanging out between classes. You can often request to sit in on a class or even to meet with a professor or staff member of the department. Visiting in-person and taking tours hosted by the admissions office can motivate you to dig deeper in your research, even if you’ve looked into your preferred majors on college websites.

Let us know if you have any questions about spring break planning or about how you can have a productive tour. We are happy to help!

Featured image (top): Rice University Quad, March 2022.

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