Should I visit the College?

The ‘70s ushered in mass pre-application and pre-acceptance campus visitations. Groups of talented high school students visited colleges and universities located in their regions. The trips were often supported by the collegiate institutions that were essentially marketing to the best students in their regions, promoting application and encouraging enrollment. Regarding non-athletic visits, participating colleges tended to be private schools of high quality, but lacking the national recognition of their famous peers.

Our experience is that of exciting travel with peers, good food, nice accommodations on campus, well-organized tours, but limited opportunities for speaking with diverse sets of individuals involved in your specific non-sports interests. Neither do schools attempt to match the students by personal characteristics or interests by which to offer a “more credible” representation of school.

Over time, regional group tours have become more national, with schools from the east packaging tours for students from the west and so on. Schools also now offer individual tours, even funding them if you are a highly promising candidate. Individual athletes and persons with special talents or with significant sociopolitical relations may also receive offers to participate in paid visits.

However, the internet also provides school-specific websites. And, there are sites that provide fairly comprehensive, independent, virtual, audiovisual tours of many campuses. There are websites that provide voluminous factual data and qualitative comments by prior students. And, many students post personal YouTube videos about their college-related experiences.

Visiting colleges can be viewed in a number of ways similar to your own experiences:

  • brief academic-flavored vacations

  • on-site interviews

  • on-site inspections

  • peeks behind the curtain

  • test drives

  • taste tests

  • visits to the fitting room

  • limited software trials

  • a date

  • or other numerous appropriate analogies.

Consider by comparison whether or not you could gain a complete understanding of the experience attending your high school in just a one-day visit, particularly if the visit is choreographed, the messages deliberate, and you have no daily life challenges and distractions with which to contend. Costs, time loss and inconvenience aside, everyone we know, both parents and students alike enjoyed formal campus visits to a degree. Some schools are so skilled in their program delivery that we would not mind visiting their student recruiting days a few times a year for the lavish lunches and concurrent live musical entertainment.

Major event type visitation weekends are heavily marketed. Some schools even align them with simultaneous scholarship acquisition opportunities. When it was suggested to one school that if we considered the average travel costs to their location and lodging costs while participating in the 2-day program, even if students from our region won the average promoted scholarship, they would probably only break even before taxes; the admissions recruiter offered no response.

If you have the inclination, time, and resources to enjoy a formal campus visit or two on special dates when they will be doing special things other than just walking you around, do so. Otherwise, unless you are receiving a special invitation, like a 5-star athlete, at which your entire recruitment financial package may be discussed, you can be more efficient gathering information from your desk at home or at your school or community resource center.