When Should I Start Touring Colleges?

We get this question a lot, and it’s an important one to ask because oftentimes students come to us the summer before their senior year not having visited one school. To be frank, that is kind of an *almost* worst-case scenario. By that time you should have your school list nearly together and have begun working on your Common App personal statement. For that reason, we encourage our students to begin touring colleges the spring of their sophomore year. But the best time would be to plan a trip during the summer between your sophomore and junior year.

This is because you have an ample amount of time and no school. It’s truly not necessary to begin visiting before sophomore spring. Trust us. It will just conjure up stress and overthinking too early in the process. We try to condense this entire process as much as possible. If you follow our timeline from the beginning, we can essentially make it so that you are done with the toughest aspects (and bulk) of the application process by the time you go back to school for your senior year. Yep, you read that correctly. We’ve put together a sample schedule for looking at schools below, so that you can start to visualize these next few years.

Sophomore Year


Start researching colleges online to get a feel for schools you might be interested in. Want to go to school in a city? In the mountains of New Hampshire? On the beach? Want to study engineering? Politics? Live in a suite? A townhouse? There are endless options, so start clicking around and see what appeals to you.


Plan a trip to just one college to begin, and go from there. By seeing one college, you’ll get a good idea of things that you liked and did not like about the school. We recommend looking at an “extreme” school to start, whatever your gut is telling you. Perhaps you’re drawn to a smaller, more isolated college like Williams, Colgate, or Dartmouth, or a larger, more urban one like UCLA, Georgetown, or Tulane. Regardless of what you choose, this first experience will help you understand the various components to look for going forward. You’ll be surprised at how instinctively you react to the school.

Junior Year 

All of that said, we understand that a great deal of you might be reading this during your junior year. Do us a favor and take a breath. It’s totally fine. Most people (and high schools) operate according to the perspective that the college process begins during your junior year of high school. If you’re a junior, then we suggest that you immediately tour a college nearby (read: accessible by train or bus) to get a sense of a college campus and start to think about what you like or don’t like. Like we said above, it’s best to start with just one, and you’ll immediately realize that you like some aspects and dislike others. This will significantly impact the trajectory of your school visit list. From there, you can use your upcoming spring break and summer, as well as long weekends, to plan trips to see colleges that are in line with what you want in terms of location, size, departments, housing options, etc. We can help you figure out your list relatively quickly if you’d like, just drop us a line.

After your visits:

  1. Be sure to write your thoughts down. That is, after you complete your tour and information session, walk around a bit, grab a bite to eat, and pop into a library or two. It’s important to write down your thoughts so that you can come back to them later. After a few college visits, it’s inevitable that you’ll forget some things that struck you.

  2. Write a personalized thank you note to your host/tour guide/anyone you met along the way.

  3. And now, repeat 6-10 times over the next few breaks.

We know that this process can seem overwhelming, but we promise that it can be fun. Choosing where you’re going to spend your 4 years of college is an exciting opportunity.

We’d be happy to help you start planning your college visits, and even if you’re a bit behind, we can help you get on track. Call or email us and let’s get a plan together.