Students and their families usually begin visiting colleges in the spring of junior year of high school. But should families start sooner? What are the benefits of making preliminary college visits during freshman or sophomore years of high school?
These are simply informal college visits that include a walk around campus, a visit to the school library, or a stroll through the campus bookstore. It’s easy to fit a brief college tour into your family vacation or spring or winter breaks. You could make a college visit a part of a family vacation.
Why, however, should you consider doing this?
To get a feel for the college environment.
It’s a proven fact that picking a college is an emotional choice. Yes, students evaluate colleges based on academics, but mostly their choice is based on a “feeling.” A student can walk onto a campus and love it or hate it immediately, and it’s difficult to change that impression. By making preliminary college visits, students get a feel for the college environment, the buildings, the layout, the students and everything that makes a college. It helps to prepare students for junior year when they start touring must-see colleges on their college lists.
To start a list of college likes and dislikes.
Believe it or not, the look and the surrounding environment of a campus is important to most students. Does your student favor a sprawling campus with hills and historic buildings or a bustling campus in the middle of a large metropolitan area? Is the idea of a smaller campus interesting? Or is your student craving the excitement a large state university campus? Students can’t know the answer to any of these questions without visiting different types of campuses.
To experience campus life first-hand.
There’s nothing like watching students congregate on the green space for an impromptu game of football. Or seeing students walking between classes having discussions and getting to know one another. Or piling into the dining hall for a meal and some conversation. The list goes on and on. You can’t get that experience by viewing a website or looking at a brochure. You only get it by visiting a campus in person. Interacting with students, asking questions, and eating in the dining hall gives your student a chance to experience college life first hand. You don’t want college orientation to the the first time your student steps on campu
To inspire college dreams and goals.
It might be hard for your student to visualize college. It’s a few years down the road and ninth- and 10th-graders don’t like thinking that far ahead. But visiting a college campus will inspire college dreams and goals and even reinforce the reasons to go to college.
By turning an intangible dream into a tangible reality, your student will be motivated and inspired to focus on goals during high school. There’s nothing like seeing students having fun, interacting with one another and enjoying campus life. It’s inspiring to see the vibrancy and activity that takes place on a campus. This is a world your student can only imagine. Visiting different campuses early helps form an image of what college is going to be like.
You don’t have to travel far to visit a college. Consider one on a family trip. Or if you’re near a college, stop by on a weekend or an afternoon.However you choose to do it, make sure those preliminary college visits are on your to-do list for those early high school years.