The Importance of College Visits

How do you know what you do and don’t like about a college if you have never been to college? You can’t know unless you experience a college environment first-hand. Applying to universities and making final decisions on your future four-year home can be a nerve-racking task, especially when you have no clue if it feels like home. 

The most reliable way to answer this critical question is to experience the campus and surrounding area authentically, not just by what Wikipedia says. Of course, there are more factors to consider and more questions to ask, but this is an excellent starting point. 

“I think that visiting colleges, whenever possible, is always a great idea. That being said, I think it’s important to visit all types of colleges and any college that you might travel close to,” college and career counselor Debra Creel said. “I would encourage students to make sure not to judge the town by the college or the college by the town. I do think that it’s important to know where you are going to live the next few years.”

Narrowing down college choices can come down to whether or not you can picture yourself not only living there but thriving there. Asking questions that apply to your needs and wants in a college and a lifestyle is a great way to know. For example, suppose on-campus involvement is a big deal to you; asking college admission representatives and tour guides the different ways to get involved might bring you closer to narrowing down your options. If you are unsure what to ask, there are many online ‘What to Ask’ lists that can help you create a list of questions that appeal to you. 

“It is a priority to me to tour colleges because I need to know what I’m looking into and where I could possibly live in the future,” senior Liberty Hasselgren said. “It is important to me to make sure that it meets my standards of a new home. Not only that but it helps me get an idea of what a college campus is like and what it offers. The town around the campus is very important to me as well. I want to make sure I have other things to do like float a river, and go on hikes.” 

The different aspects of college life that appeal to each person will vary, and there are so many variables to consider. It is influential to be aware of factors that mean the most to you when touring a college campus, such as the campus size, feeling safe and at home, people who share your interests, what the campus offers, and just the overall vibe of the environment. 

“When touring a college, my main concern is whether I can truly envision myself attending there every day, including the dorms and academic buildings,” senior Lauren Taylor said. “Although I would prefer to be located in a relatively fun and interactive city or town, it is not my main concern as I would much rather have a great school with little surrounding it than the opposite.”

Unfortunately, physically experiencing a campus is not always feasible due to time, finance, and COVID. Luckily, there are more options than ever. Virtual tours have improved tremendously over the past year, and almost all universities offer them. If these feel too impersonal or detached, there are ways to meet virtually with an admissions representative or student ambassador through Naviance or directly through the college’s admissions department. If visiting is not likely because of funds, check if the campus offers fly-in programs for students with financial needs. There is no excuse not to experience college before attending. 

“I have attended one virtual college tour and it was very helpful to talk with an admissions counselor and get questions answered,” senior Thomas Gault said. “My family also took road trips to tour colleges. When I was on a college campus I liked to see how students were getting around campus and how spread out or compact the campus was. Being in college allows for lots of time outside of class and I want to make sure I can leave campus and enjoy myself. But a campus with lots of amenities is also very important because sometimes leaving campus isn’t an option.”

In-person and virtual campus tours are currently available at the following Texas Universities. Check out the links for more information on planning visits and specific requirements of each University.

“Many students often only visit their favorite college that may be really difficult to be admitted to, but never visit the school they use as their likely school. So, I always encourage students to visit any school they may apply to,” Creel said. “I also highly encourage students to visit colleges they may be physically around, even if they don’t think they would go there. Also, if you are visiting your dream school, visit the other schools in the area.”