CollegePro: Does my child really need to do a campus visit?

We all know how expensive college can be. Just getting through the college admissions process can beat up a family budget. If you’re a parent, you may be wondering if your child really needs to do a campus visit.  Especially if the prospective college is far away from home.

Dr. Christine M. Hand Gonzales, aka Dr. Chris, has more than 30 years of experience in college counseling. For this week’s “Ask a College Pro,” Dr. Chris gives us the skinny on college visits.

Ask a College Pro copyOnce your student narrows down a list of possible schools, a campus visit is crucial. In most cases, a campus visit is not a required step in the admissions process. But when your child is deciding where to live for the next four years, it’s helpful to experience the campus firsthand.

A campus visit shows admissions representatives that a student is interested in their program. If a campus visit is out of the question for your family, call the college and ask if a school representative will be in your area.

Do the homework

Whether your student meets an admissions representative on campus or at a college fair, they have to be prepared. They should have a strong grasp of why they are interested in a school. They should also know their own numbers: PSAT, SAT, ACT and GPA.

Your student should be prepared to talk about their strengths, academics, and extracurricular activities. It’s not bragging. Admissions officers expect to get to know prospective students.

Make the most of your campus visit

Given the resources that go into campus visits, you definitely want it to be time and money well spent. Sit down as a family and make a list of questions that you need answered by a prospective college.

Below are some things your child can do before, during, and after the visit to make it worth the trip.

1.     Call ahead to schedule the visit

2.     Take the official school tour and attend an information session

3.     Arrive on time (or early) for the tour

4.     Dress for success—they may meet with the very people who review applications

5.     Interact with students, faculty, coaches and admis­sions staff

6.     Grab a school newspaper

7.     Attend a class or lecture

8.     Eat in the dining hall

9.     Stop by the library and labs

10.  Check out the dorms (and stay the night, if allowed)

11.  Collect a business card of the admissions person with whom they met

12.  Keep a journal of  thoughts about the school

13. Assess whether or not the school meets their needs and interests

14. Send a thank-you note to any faculty or admissions staff they met

Is a campus visit absolutely necessary?

No. But visiting the campus is one of the most important steps in actually choosing a college.

Readers: Are campus visits in your future? What are your questions, rants and tips? Leave a comment below.


Dr. Christine M. Hand Gonzales is a long-time college counselor and author based in Sumter, South Carolina.  Dr. Gonzales, aka Dr. Chris, helps families make healthy, productive choices as they plan for college. To learn more, visit Dr. Chis on her website.

Ask a College Pro answers your questions about college planning, admissions, and financial aid. Send questions to

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About Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson is a Dallas-based freelance writer and college planning evangelist. When she's not helping parents avoid the college sneak up, you can find her writing for small business clients or chomping away at nonfiction books (and pistachios).


CollegePro: Does my child really need to do a campus visit? — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for stopping in Carla. I get the sense that even some of the families who do a college visit do so only after their student has already applied or otherwise has their heart set on the school. If they love the school after a visit, great. If they don’t like the school after seeing it firsthand at least there is still time to go another route.
    Nicole Robinson recently posted…Talking to Kids About Who Pays for College and WeddingsMy Profile

  2. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t even apply very far from home, but we did wind up driving about 8 hours two different weekends to check out schools – one of which made it into my final two and we wound up returning to a few months later so I could interview for the honors college. I was pretty nervous heading off to college, I really can’t even fathom heading off without ever having been there! On the flip side, after a few visits, there were schools I didn’t even apply to.

    Stopping by from the SITSGirls!
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…#NYCFail – I Lost My Metrocard. Again.My Profile

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