You Really Should Visit Colleges During Sophomore and Junior Year

As decisions come in for seniors, those who visited colleges are having an easier time deciding where they want to attend next year. Those who didn’t are rushing to attend admitted student events and see the campuses that have offered them admission. While Covid made it hard for students to visit colleges during the height of the pandemic, most schools are back open fully to in-person visitors. Log onto the website, go to the admissions section and schedule a tour and information session (if offered). The more research you do on the front end of your application process, the easier your essy writing and decision-making process will be.

Families of high school sophomores should schedule some visits to nearby schools –go see a small private, a large public, something urban and something suburban or rural. There aren’t a lot of schools with 5000-9000 undergrads, but if there is one nearby go check that out, too. Then discuss what your student thought of the size, of the locations and the specific schools. Based on what they liked, start looking for similar size schools with a similar location that offer their prospective major. You can use sites like My Big Future, Naviance, Scoir, Niche to see the academic profile of those admitted–try to find schools where your child falls in the middle to the top of those statistics. While admission isn’t guaranteed, being in the middle or top of stats will make you more likely to be admitted (and possibly get merit aid if the school offers it).

Once you have a list of 10-15 schools, sophomores and juniors should do virtual visits to narrow down where they want to visit in person. Try to see schools while they are in session to get a sense of how you like the students–you will be with them for four years. You also may have to write an essay about the community–it’s hard to do that if you haven’t met anyone who attends or talked about student and academic life with real students. Use junior year breaks–fall break, MLK day, president’s day, and spring break to visit schools. Try to have the list of where you want to apply narrowed by August 1.

Many colleges will ask you to write essays on why you want to attend a specific school. Visits are a great way to gather those reasons. Talk to students, faculty, and staff while there. Learn about campus life, career opportunities, clubs, and study abroad. All of this research will help you write essays that seem authentic versus those just rehashing a college’s website.

If you need help building a college list or narrowing down if a school is the right fit for you, schedule a session with us. We can discuss schools to consider, how to do your research and what to ask on a college visit.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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