**This article was originally published in January 2020 and has since been updated and re-published.
The best way to discover if a college is right for you is to go on a college visit. Touring campuses and meeting students provide invaluable insights into schools that you cannot gather from a website. There are thousands of colleges in the United States, but only so many free days in the year. So organizing a weekend of college visits is a great way to see multiple colleges in limited time.
You will find no shortage of schools in the American northeast. From the Mid-Atlantic to Maine, colleges range from urban to rural and everything in between. How should you choose which schools to visit first? For example, choosing a city might be your best way to start. If you choose Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or Washington DC, you could schedule college visits for many schools in one weekend. Let’s use New York City as an example.
What types of schools?
Where will you be scheduling these college visits? Understanding what you are looking for in a school will be your first step. If you are only interested in public universities or small colleges, then you can scratch NYU off of your list. However, if “urban” is a high priority, then you might want to reconsider NYU. Balancing your wants and needs in a college is key. An excellent tool is the College Board’s college search feature called Big Future.
With Big Future, you can sort colleges by location, testing ranges, diversity, etc. Narrowing down colleges in one city better allows you to select your college visits. For example, if you know you are a student with certain scores, it might be smart to look at colleges with similar testing. Adding some “reaches” and “safeties” are okay as well. Creating a list of colleges is really up to you.
Deciphering between wants and needs will allow you to narrow down your college list. If you need to major in neural science, there may only be select universities in one area with that major. Greek life may be a desire for you, but not a necessity. You may want small classes, but could be open to a bigger university with slightly larger classes and more academic opportunities.
Scheduling is key.
Once you find the right schools, it is time to make your itinerary. College visits are offered at different times by different schools. Therefore, it is necessary to look at each school’s college visit schedule. By looking at NYU’s visit calendar, you can find weekday and weekend information sessions and tours. Weekends can be a great way to see multiple schools if you are from out of town. In New York, you could probably see two, maybe even three schools in one day. You should always RSVP early so that you solidify your spot in the session/tour.
Some colleges have multiple information sessions and tours throughout the day. In New York City, plan your travel between campuses accordingly, and do underestimate the subway! MTA Trip Planner can help you plan your commute to other colleges uptown, further downtown, or in other boroughs. If you are thinking of doing Friday and Saturday tours, consider the driving, hotel, and all that goes into making a weekend of college visits. (Most colleges do not offer visits on Sunday).
The reason for the (visit) season.
You make your itinerary, plan your travel, arrive on campuses, and complete your college visits. Now what? A lot happens while you are on campus, and a lot can be forgotten. When you visit multiple colleges in a short period of time, they can blend together. Take notes after the tour, while the college is still fresh in your mind. You will review these notes when talking about your final college list with your counselor.
The students you met and the admissions staff you spoke with provided great knowledge. Hold onto that. Use it in essays. Doing a college visit allows you to articulate how your experience on campus made you feel about the university. All of these benefits stem from your planning of college visits. Visiting campuses can reveal that you actually are not in love with a school you thought you were. Alternatively, it may confirm that passion is deep and real. If a student has the ability to visit a college campus, they absolutely should.