Why College Visits Have Become So Important

At last year’s NACAC conference, I attended a two-hour session on “demonstrated interest.”  A panel of college representatives explained why it is so important to see how interested a prospective student is in their school and specific ways to show that interest.  At the end of the session, a high school counselor asked this: “Isn’t a student ‘demonstrating interest’ simply by applying to your school? Why are you asking students to jump through yet another hoop to prove they want to attend your college?”

A valid question indeed. But with the ever-increasing volumes of applications flooding admissions offices each year, colleges seek additional criteria with which to vet students. ‘Demonstrated interest’ is the new important criterion that prospective students must add to their list of responsibilities.  Hence, campus visits have taken on a whole new meaning.

According to college reps, the absence of a campus visit may raise eyebrows when they are reviewing applications especially if the student lives within driving distance.  Some colleges ask on the application itself how a student has engaged with a given school (i.e. campus visit; interview; college fair; etc.).

Crucial for Students to "Feel" the Campus

Aside from showing ‘demonstrated interest,’ a campus visit also benefits students as it is the best way to feel the vibe on a campus and to get to know what that college is all about. No website, guidebook, or friend's advice offers a better feel for a school than actually walking around that campus. The better a student understands a college environment both academically and socially, the more able he/she is to narrow down choices.  Furthermore, visiting colleges can become a real motivator for students to do well in their current schoolwork and extra-curricular activities.

For all of the above-mentioned reasons, I strongly recommend that students visit as many colleges as possible. Hence, I advise current sophomores to visit a couple of colleges this spring. I advise current juniors to visit one, or two, colleges before spring break, and then to see another three to four colleges during spring break. How will you squeeze it all in?

Use Weekends for Visits

Almost all colleges offer information sessions and campus tours on weekends. Check which schools are closest geographically and schedule visits to those that are within a few hours’ driving distance for a Saturday. Schedule the trips to farther destinations during the spring break to insure enough time. If your spring break is not long enough to travel to more than one or two colleges, plan a visit on a weekend to those you couldn’t get to beforehand.  That said, it is important to see a campus in session so it is imperative to visit colleges before mid-May.  Once finals are over, college students escape en masse and the campus is relatively empty. 

Next week’s blogpost will cover how to make the most of campus visits and how to use them to  “demonstrate your interest”  beyond the tour itself.