This is a question we get often, and we want to start by debunking a theory about touring colleges. A lot of students and parents think that they’re touring colleges in order to make a grand impression and to demonstrate interest in that particular school. And that is not the case.
This has the potential to be the shortest blog post of all time because at TKG, we give our clients only one piece of advice when it comes to deciding what to wear on a college tour. We suggest wearing comfortable footwear.
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.
Four words for you: Stress. Free. Travel. Plans.
Buying final-sale clothes without trying them on is ill-advised. So to is going through the application process without touring colleges. U.S. News & World, secondhand information from friends, and information packets can only tell you so much about a school. To give yourself, not only a three-dimensional experience of a university, but also a sense of what you want in a school in general, visiting is really the only way to go.
Let’s start by saying that if you’re reading this right now and you’re a junior, you should have started yesterday. But to be fair, this is a question we often get from everyone from parents of students in 8th grade to high school seniors, so we’re going to expand on this.
It’s April of your junior year. The sun has come out. Your classmates are planning the next all-school walkout, and you are probably using all of your strength to focus in history class for just a few more weeks so you don’t totally bomb the question about the Teapot Dome Scandal on your final exam. April also means that if you haven’t started thinking about the college process, you’re late to the game.
If you’re reading this, you’re going to apply to college (or your kid is going to apply, and you’re going to tell them about this at the dinner table, so it’s basically like they’re reading it anyway). Just knowing that you’re going to apply to college, though, isn’t enough to actually kick-start the college process, and figuring out how to start can feel crippling.
The spring of sophomore year can be fun. You feel more confident about your place in school. Perhaps your parents are granting you more freedom and depending on where you live, you might even be revving up to get your driver’s license. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but you’re also hitting that point in which everything starts moving faster and before you know it, you’ll blink and be in college. So, while it may seem a little early, there is no time like your sophomore year of spring break to start preparing. Admit it. We know you’re kind of excited.
So, juniors. Spring break is coming up. And let us guess: you haven’t toured any colleges yet. You have two options: 1) tour some colleges or 2) visit some colleges. That was a trick because those two things are the same. This is the time to take advantage of your upcoming break and start visiting colleges, doing your research, forming opinions, and making decisions. If we’re being honest, it’s late for you to be starting the college visit process (you should have already visited at least a couple of schools by now), but here we are. You can do it.
Attention, juniors: spring break is coming up. Unfortunately, this is not the time to relax and go on a nice long vacation with your family. Not this year. Every other year of your life, sure, but this is not the time for relaxation. This is the time to use this free time to your advantage.
College visits are a big part of the college application process. It’s necessary to go to a college campus and experience it for yourself. Of course, it’s important to remember that college visits are an orchestrated marketing of the college, put on by the college, but it’s important to experience the school firsthand nonetheless.
We’re sure you’re all so well-mannered that you’ve been writing thank you notes since you learned script. Your grandma probably still has boxes of your letters saved. Now, we enter the adult thank you note realm. Scene: you’re visiting a college. Someone gives you a tour of the college. Two students host the information session and answer some of the questions that you had prepared. You sit in on a class with a particularly inspiring professor.
You’ve spent countless hours deciding where you might want to go to college, and now you’re finally seeing the campus with your own eyes. This is perhaps the most valuable opportunity you’ll have to really get to know a school- so don’t waste it. Instead of leaving with only the information given to you by your tour-guide-- likely a sales pitch about the amazing facilities and trees and $5 million dollar gym-- find some students who aren’t working for the school, and get their opinions. And remember, you already know the best parts of the university. Colleges spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing. So as un-fun as it is, try to also get a sense of the worst qualities of a school- what factors would deter you from going somewhere?
When Jane first stepped foot on the campus of the school she would ultimately attend, she fell in love. It looked the way she imagined college should look: ivy-covered buildings, students sprawled out on the lawn, historic looking statues. She found the information session with the Dean of Admissions comprehensive, providing a glimpse into the academic and social scenes of the school.