How many colleges should you visit? You might think that we are about to tell you to visit as many colleges as humanly possible. If so, you’re wrong. We don’t think that. In fact, we have a very specific view on how many colleges every student should visit in order to maximize the effectiveness of their visit, as well as maximize time spent on the process, and minimize stress.
We recommend that every student visit at least 5-6 colleges and no more than 10-12. We say this because we want you to visit enough colleges so that you get a truly well-rounded and clear idea of what you like and dislike about various colleges, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed. We find that when students spend the time visiting 13 and 14 colleges, the details begin to blur and it becomes even more confusing than it has to be. After a few colleges, you will begin to notice that there are a lot of similarities in certain areas regardless of where you’re visiting. You will also become more sharply and keenly observant of the areas of difference.
Where to start?
We recommend starting with just one college to begin that seems intriguing or interesting to you. After visiting, you will immediately reflect on what you liked and disliked, which will shape your list of colleges to visit going forward. We also recommend visiting an area with multiple schools at the beginning to maximize efficiency. After you see the first few colleges, you can better determine which schools to spend the travel time to get to and visit schools that are farther away or more isolated. It won’t be a waste because you’ll have a clearer idea of what you are looking for.
Some ideas for areas with multiple schools nearby:
NYC: NYU, Columbia, The New School, Fordham, Bard, Vassar
Boston: Tufts, Northeastern, Harvard, Babson, Boston University, MIT, Emerson
Washington DC: Georgetown, American, George Washington
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore
Los Angeles: UCLA, USC, Pomona, UC Irvine, Occidental, Pitzer, Scripps
Bay Area: UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Francisco, Santa Clara University
Chicago: Northwestern, University of Chicago, DePaul
Below is a step-by-step, How To Visit A College guide for you to follow. Let us know if you have any questions or need help planning your college visits.
Before You Go:
Register for an information session and tour.
Pack a notebook or print out a bunch of copies of our College Visit Notepad to pack.
While You’re There:
Ask questions, pay attention, take photos, and be aware during your information session and tour. Take note of the things that you see that make you think, “Wow that’s cool,” “Eek, weird, I don’t know about that,” or “Let me jot that down so I can look into that later, I want to know more about that.”
Audit a class if you can. We can help you find one if you need.
Explore areas of campus that may not be on the tour--perhaps the arboretum, visual arts center, engineering library, or a theater.
Find out the contact information for your admissions representative. Every geographic area has an admissions representative responsible for reading and recruiting applicants from the area. Find out that information.
Fill out an information--this goes into your student file. Demonstrated interest is factored into your admissions decision at many schools. If you apply to a school that you have visited and filled out an information card, they will know that and it could help give you an edge in the application process.
Walk around, grab a bite to eat, and get a feel for the surrounding area.
After You Leave:
Reflect in a conversation and while you fill out your College Visit Notepad. What did you think? How do you feel? What was exciting? Disappointing? Remember, there’s no right answer.
Write personalized thank you notes to the leader(s) of your information session and tours, and any professors or students you meet.
If you’re wondering when you should begin these college visits, check out our blog post on this exact topic. TL;DR: no earlier than sophomore spring, and because you’re likely reading this as a junior, there are some tips in there about what to do on each visit and how to plan them. You should read it.
We’d love to help you plan your college visits. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have as little as a question or as much as a spring break that you need help filling with college visits. Give us a shout.