College Tours

Updated on June 11, 2011
B.W. asks from Santa Cruz, CA
12 answers

My son just finished up his sophomore year of high school and I'm thinking it's time we start thinking about doing some college tours. Anyone have any advice on how/when to do this?

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answers from Chicago on

Start this summer but make it more of a fun vacation. The visits don't need to be too intense but they will be great because he will get a chance to visit and tour campuses to start figuring out what he wants and likes in his next chapter of his life. The good thing is that prospective student traffic in the summer isn't as intense as it is in the fall. The bad thing is that he won't really get to see the 'campus in action' since traditional students will be off for the summer (but at this age, that's okay).

Your main goal should be to expose him to many different types of campuses: large, medium, small, public, private, urban, suburban, rural, and with different climates/cultures (liberal, conservative, artistic, etc.). This will get him started thinking about what type of atmosphere he wants in his collegiate experience. It will also help narrow things down for when he starts making the 'serious' visits the summer before his senior year and in the fall of his senior year.

Good luck, make it fun, and at this stage be open-minded. It's all about exploration.

And...remember - college is a match to be made not a prize to be won!

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from San Francisco on

We had the help of "college coach" (paid for by my husband's company). They looked at my daughters grades, PSAT scores, and a survey she filled out and gave her a list of colleges in three categories -- Dream (stretch), Just Right, and "no problem" (some people call "scholarship" because these are the schools your most likely to get merit scholarships at). I think there are tools on the college board web site that can help you prepare your own list.

We looked at 16 colleges starting in her junior year. The college coach people said it was best to look at a variety of schools -- a large state school (UC SC or Berekely are close), a medium size private school (Santa Clara), and a small school (St. Mary's in Moraga). Since they are relatively local San Jose State and Cal Poly, SLO. By looking at these schools that are nearby you can avoid expensive travel and still get an idea what different sizes of schools feel like. (College Coach -- )

In my daughters case, she only applied to 5 schools, got into 4 of them, and got "waitlisted" (but eventually rejected) by the one college coach called a "Dream +++++" (That was actually good for her ego -- it didn't deflate it.)

Good luck

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answers from Austin on

Our daughter did not tour colleges until she was accepted. She was just not interested. I think it actually freaked her out a bit because SHE was not sure what she was looking for yet.

She researched online and felt like she had a good feeling about each school. Then she applied in her senior year. Once the acceptance letters and scholarship offers came in, that is how she decided which colleges to see first. She was very fortunate that she was accepted to all of them and all of them with excellent offers.

We went to the one closest to home, then to a College that had an interview available for a Presidential scholarship, and then continued until she found the right match for her.

She had her "Pie in the sky college in mind" but once we visited it and she could compare it with others, she actually chose a different college and she has never looked back.

I must admit I was getting a little worried, but while we were on the campus, I knew in my heart it was the right one for her. I still did not give any nudges or hints. I knew she was the one that needed to make the final choice, because she was the one that needed to live there and do the work.

I never gave my opinion unless asked. Instead, I asked her, "what do you think about this campus?" "What are concerned about?" "What has impressed you the most?" "Do you think you would be happy here?"

We made sure to see what the housing was like, what the libraries contained, the Museums, the Administration and financial aide offices, student centers. Also the town and cities. We took a look at transportation and we asked a lot of questions of the actual students.

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answers from New York on

My son is the same age as yours, and we are planning to start looking next spring/summer. We did the whole college search with my daughter 2 years ago, and brought my son along to most of them, so at least he has some idea already of what different campuses look like. I think it's a good idea to start gathering information now, sending away for brochures and looking online, using the college guides available at your local library, etc. and compiling a list of schools to look at. It's important to try to narrow it down a little before going to look - the choices are overwhelming and it's easy to start getting them all mixed up! My daughter applied to 8 schools, we looked at her top 4 choices the summer before her senior year. She also took a 2-week summer course at one of the schools after her junior year - I would highly recommend doing that, if you can. She earned 3 college credits for doing so, and fell in love with the school and that's where she ended up going. The college search is a long roller coaster of a process from start to finish - fun, but exhausting! Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

Start this summer.
Make sure he dresses up a bit and makes a good impression. I can't tell you how many colleges we went to for tours where the kids were just schlepping around in flip flops and shorts.
If you are driving any distance, you might ask if they will interview while you are there. If he is going to interview, please make sure he at least wears a shirt and tie -- jackets are not required in the summer. My son wore his jacket for the interview and then took it off and rolled his shirt sleeves for the tour. He was thanked time and time again by the interviewers and the tour guides for dressing for the event.
Make up a list of questions about each college that your son might ask while he is in the interview room or on the tour. They always ask if anyone has questions...
My son also sent thankyou notes to each interviewer and a note to admissions thanking them for the tour.
My younger daughter came along on all of these events. She took it all in and made some decisions about whether or not she might consider the schools as well. So - bring the younger ones along...

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answers from Dallas on

I actually didn't do this until my senior year, I don't know if that was good or bad. When I started college I had no idea what I wanted to major in so I really didn't have a good lineup of questions for each college I toured. I figured out what I wanted to major in after I started my 2nd year which in turn led me out of state to another school. It worked out for the better though because it was cheaper to do all my generals at a local state college in my home town and then transfer all those credits to my new school when I finally figured out what I really enjoyed.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi B.!
My daughter is going to college in the Fall.
We actually waited until she was accepted to the colleges she thought were a good fit for her via the web, word of mouth and the location.
So many of my friends did the college tours early on and were disappointed when they didn't get in. Most weren't your average GPA, SAT nor ACT students either! 4.2 GPA, 2100+ SAT and 31 ACT scores and still didn't get into their choice college. They had their hearts set on certain colleges they had visited and when they didn't get in, it was devastating to them!
On the other hand, it can give her son a boost! He can really take in the college life, get excited about it and work even harder in high school. It's really up to you. Just my experience to share with you.
Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter (16) just finished her sophomore year as well.

We started last fall and worked a college visit into a trip we had.

We head out next week for NC to visit Duke, NC State, UNC and Wake Forest.

I registered for the visits online. Colleges like the early applications... it means the student is eager and likes the college. My daughter has her top in mind and we are visiting them. You may think you have a #1 choice until you get on campus and your opinion changes.

Most of the Seniors who just graduated in my neighborhood had already committed and were accepted to their college of choice by the fall of the Senior year.

She LOVES Penn State but HATES the cold. She is still considering applying there because she loved the atmosphere and the school.

Good luck.. we are on the roller coaster too!!!

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answers from St. Louis on

I didn't do college tours till my the end of my junior year . . . . I did online research during my junior year to get an idea of programs and what I could major in. I also planned to sit for the SAT for the first time about halfway through my junior year and/or the ACT so I had my scores so I could get an idea of which schools were viable options. Then I simply scheduled the tours through their admissions office website of the school I was interested in. Also, I made sure to meet with the advisors of each department that I was interested in possibly majoring in. You could set this up through the admissions office as well usually. I scheduled them all for the summer before and the first few months of my senior year. It was easiest to do that cause I was out of school and your senior year, most schools give you "college days." So I was ready to apply and had a good idea of my top choices.

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answers from Washington DC on

We are startign this summer. Mine is has just finished her junior year.


answers from Los Angeles on

I started doing it my junior year of high school for sports, but sophomore year is good! That way he may even want to take a class or two before he is done with high school to get ahead. That might encourage him even more to stick in school. It would be nice to do it during summer, but then the students aren't all there. It might be nice to do it during the school year so you can talk to some students, get info from a counselor, etc. Call ahead to admissions and see if they have tours and such they can set you up with!

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