Adding a campus visit to your spring break travel plans can be fun and productive, even if you have never visited a college and college application time is a long way off. For those resisting already, let me address your objections, one by one:
- There aren’t any colleges we’re interested in where we’re going (Even better! No pressure to make any big decisions then.)
- My child is only in 7th (8th, 9th, 10th grade) (Perfect! It’s never too early to start exposing your child to the college environment to get their wheels turning and get them excited about their future.)
- I’ll bet there aren’t any colleges where we’re going (“False.” Dwight Schrute)
- We won’t have a car (Uber. Ever heard of it?)
- My child won’t want to. (Yeah, I didn’t want to go to balmy rural Nebraska for spring break either. But no one asked me. They just said, “Get in the car, or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” Or something like that.)
- We’re staying home (Great! Then you can check out colleges near your home. Perfect day trip.)
- I don’t know what we’re doing for spring break yet (A college you’ve always been curious about could help you nail down a destination.)
Look, I can’t make you go on a campus visit. But I can tell you you’ll be glad if you do. It doesn’t have to take up your entire vacation. No matter where you’re going, you can add a campus visit that lasts a day, a morning or an hour.
Why You Should Start College Campus Visits Way Before Junior Year
As a college planner, I’m a huge advocate for visiting college campuses early and often, beginning in middle school and certainly well before junior year. Things are less overwhelming, more familiar and more comfortable the more you do them.
Wouldn’t you rather get your first college campus visits under your belt before you’re in the throes of college planning?
My sons have been taking campus visits since they were in elementary school. (Granted, I’m in the biz, and I’ve visited more than 130 campuses around the country.) Once Jack and Joe were juniors in high school and we were in the thick of college planning, the brilliance of early campus visits came to life for me. During campus visits for schools they were seriously considering, they already had a general understanding of what “College” was. They’d been on big campuses and small campuses. They’d seen private colleges and public colleges. They’d seen colleges in cities and colleges in small towns. The job of evaluating a particular school was much easier because they had something to compare it to.
Options for College Campus Visits That Fit Every Age and Interest Level
Schedule an official Campus Visit Tour.
Go to any college website, and you’ll find “Admissions”. There you’ll find info about visiting the campus. Colleges WANT you to visit, because they WANT to attract prospective students. They don’t care if you’re not applying soon. They love the exposure. Therefore, they make campus visit information easy to find. You can call or email the college to find out when they do tours, and then register for one that works for you. Campus tours typically take 2-3 hours and will give you a good idea of the highlights about that particular campus. Note: To get the most out of your visit, make sure they don’t have spring break at that time. The college website or admissions personnel can provide this information.
Take a Self-Guided Campus Visit.
While not as thorough as a guided tour, you can guide your own campus visit with a map of the campus that you grab from the visitor’s center or admissions office. College campuses are wide open, welcoming places, and you can walk freely all over campus on your own self-guided tour. You’ll get a good idea of what the campus feels like, what type of people are strolling around, what the facilities and amenities look like and more. A self-guided campus visit is a solid option for younger students who can’t be cajoled into an official tour. It also lets you control how long you spend visiting, so you can get back to other spring break activities on your own schedule.
Opt for a drive-by campus visit.
This is exactly what it sounds like. While you’re out and about exploring your spring break destination, drive through the college campus nearby. It’s obviously less thorough than a walking tour, but it accomplishes the goal of getting a feel for the campus. It doesn’t take long, and any campus visit is better than no campus visit.
Piggy-back a college campus visit on other site-seeing.
Just as State Street in Madison is right next to the University of Wisconsin, the best parts of many cities are right near college campuses. College campuses typically have fantastic art museums, wonderful theater productions, great athletic events, beautiful gardens and grounds and fun, quirky bookstores and coffee shops. Check them out!
For more on how to make the most of campus visits including what to ask, where to go, what NOT to do and who to talk to, download our free campus visit guide. It makes for great reading on the drive. We also have a Campus Visit Bullet Journal you can download. This handy one-pager is a helpful note-taking tool while you’re on a campus visit.
For help with which colleges to visit and how to know which colleges are right for you, check out our College Search services. You can sign up for a FREE consult in person or by phone anytime. Let’s talk College!