Complete College Visit Checklist

By Jacky Gilchrist

Choosing where to go to college is a major decision. You’ll need to decide not only which school suits your career goals and other interests, but also where you’ll feel comfortable living for four years (or longer if you attend grad school there). College visits are essential for the decision-making process. Visiting the schools on your shortlist will help you determine which one is best for you.

Plus, attending an information session and interviewing with an admissions officer during your visits are excellent ways of demonstrating your interest to the school, which may benefit your admissions chances. Use the following college visit checklist to plan your trip and get the most out of it.

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Things To Do Before A College Visit

1. Do a little research on colleges of interest

The first item on your college visit checklist is to research some schools of interest. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to put together a shortlist of about five to 10 schools that you think you might like to attend and that would support your career goals. Explore their websites, review any promotional materials they send you, and talk to your high school guidance counselor about your options.

2. Choose which colleges to visit

You might not visit every college on your shortlist, especially if that list is longer. First, talk to your parents about college visits. How many visits will they be able to accommodate? What are their geographic restrictions, if any? Do you need to limit your visits to schools within driving range or is a flight or two possible? Once you know what your parameters are, you can decide which campuses to prioritize.

3. Sign up for official tours

Now that you know which campuses you’re aiming to visit, the next item on your college visit checklist is to decide when you’ll be able to get to each. Depending on geography and your school schedule, it may make sense to cluster a couple of campus visits together into one long weekend. After planning the travel logistics with your parents, visit the school websites and sign up for official tours on those dates. It’s also a good idea to reach out to the admissions offices and ask about scheduling interviews on those dates.

4. Write a list of questions

Next, develop a list of questions to ask on your college tours and during your interviews. You might want to ask about academics and specific departments, extracurriculars, campus life, and admissions. For a list of good questions to ask, check out this blog.

5. Research the town

Your campus will be your home away from home for four years, so it’s important to make sure you’ll be happy there. However, you’ll definitely want to venture off campus, as well, so spend some time researching the town ahead of your visit. You’ll want to explore points of interest, do some touristy things, and check out the local restaurants. You’ll also want to know if there’s a supermarket close to campus, nearby healthcare (hospitals and pharmacies), convenient transportation (train station, subway, bus, airports, etc.), and, if you have a car, a mechanic close to campus.

What to Do During Your College Visit

6. Dress in office casual attire

If you have an interview on campus, you should wear or bring business casual clothing, such as a shirt and tie with slacks or a skirt and blouse. Otherwise, you can dress a little more informally. Khaki pants and a polo shirt or a sundress are both appropriate outfits. Try not to dress too casually and avoid showing too much skin.

7. Take the official tour

Although it’s also a good idea to wander around on your own, you should also plan on taking the official tour. Your tour guide will almost certainly be a current student. They will show you all of the major points of interest, such as a dormitory, academic building, library, student center, and dining halls.

Do note that the official tour will likely not include older or outdated parts of campus; the college wants to put their best foot forward, just as you do. It may also not include all of the parts of the campus that you want to see, such as the academic building for your intended major, sports facilities, and so on. You can explore those areas after the official tour.

8. Pay attention to where the students are

As long as you aren’t visiting the campus during the summer or another school break, there should be plenty of college students roaming around. Making a note of where the students are can tell you a lot about the campus culture. If the library is jam-packed, for example, it’s a safe bet that the school prioritizes academics. Similarly, seeing a lot of students relaxing in the sunshine on the quad could indicate that the school is relatively laid back.

9. Explore the campus beyond the tour

You’ll definitely want to check out as much of the campus as you have time for. This is not the best time to rush things; take your time strolling around and soak up the atmosphere. Don’t forget to take plenty of notes about your first impressions. In addition, take pictures of points of interest to refresh your memory later. You should also take pictures of yourself smiling in front of various buildings or other features (see the section on social media below).

10. Talk to lots of people, not just your tour guide

Your official tour guide will give you the company line, so to speak. While that can be helpful, it’s also a good idea to talk to other people around campus to get the less polished view of the school. Try to talk to students, sports team members, club members, and so on.

11. Explore your intended major

If you already know what you want to major in, you should definitely take the time to explore that particular academic building. The condition of the building itself, its available technology, and its size can give you a clue as to how much that major is valued at that school and what sort of resources/programs you might have available to you.

12. Check the school bulletin boards

You’ll likely find bulletin boards scattered around, particularly in the student center. Snap some pictures to look at later. The notices posted there can give you a clue about the social, political, or religious pulse of the campus community.

13. Check the classrooms

Colleges generally have a mix of large lecture halls and smaller classrooms, perhaps set up conference room-style. Does the school tend to have tons of lecture halls and few smaller classrooms that support greater interaction? That can tell you something about the academics there. Similarly, make a note of the technology available in the classrooms.

14. Check the dorms that aren’t on the tour

The tour guide will show you the newest, snazziest-looking dorm on campus. Ask if you can see one of the older ones to get a sense of where you might actually be living if you don’t land a spot in a newer dorm.

15. Be respectful to others

This goes without saying, but it’s definitely important to be on your best behavior while on your college visit. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

16. Keep a record of your visit

You’ll want to take plenty of notes and snap lots of pictures during each of your college visits. This will help jog your memory later as you spend some time reflecting on your first impressions of the schools.

17. Read a student newspaper

Student newspapers can give you a clue as to the pulse of the school community. Is there a vibrant arts scene? Are there regular activities and events? Do the other students seem engaged in campus life?

18. Try the food in the cafeteria

This item on your to-do list will be especially important if you have any food allergies or sensitivities. If so, make an effort to speak to a few of the cafeteria workers about the menu and whether there are plenty of choices available to you.

19. Visit the bookstore

The campus bookstore will be where you’ll purchase your textbooks along with any other classroom supplies you may need. Does it appear well-stocked? Are workers readily available to help students if they need it?

20. Look into clubs and organizations

On-campus clubs and other activities are the lifeblood of a school’s social scene. Does the school offer a bunch that look interesting to you? Can you attend a club activity while you’re there?

21. Ask about job opportunities for students

Higher education institutions customarily offer student employment opportunities. This may be available as part of a financial aid package. Although you won’t be applying just yet, it never hurts to find out what sort of opportunities could be available to you. Consider asking your tour guide which jobs are the most popular, and therefore, the hardest to get.

22. Find the library and ask about its resources

Although it might seem inconceivable, not everything is findable on Google. A robust campus library will be essential for your success in college. Take plenty of time to explore the library and don’t hesitate to chat with a librarian about its resources. Is there a media room? Does it offer archives and special collections? Are there small meeting rooms available for student study groups?

What to Do After Your College Visit

23. Reflect on your visit and adjust your shortlist accordingly

Your college visit checklist isn’t quite complete yet! There are also some steps you should take after your visit. Spend some time thinking about the experience. What did you like and dislike about the school? Do you have any concerns or follow-up questions? Consider whether you should rank the school higher on your shortlist or perhaps downgrade or eliminate it.

24. Send thank you notes

Even if you aren’t sure whether the school is the right one for you, it’s always a good idea to send thank you notes. Send a thank you email or written note to the admissions officers and other reps you may have met. This will help you make a good impression and it’s always nice to be polite.

25. Reach out with follow-up questions

If you do have any follow-up questions, you can include them in your thank you emails to the admissions officers. Even if you didn’t meet with an admissions officer during the visit, you can send a quick, polite email to the office with your questions. Mention that you recently visited the school and then type a brief list of questions.

26. Post college visit pics to your social media, if applicable

You might already know that hiring managers often check job applicants’ social media profiles before deciding whether to extend a job offer. But did you know that admissions officers might do this, as well? It may be beneficial for you to post happy pictures of you on campus and mention how much you enjoyed the experience. This demonstrates your interest in the school—admissions staff like to see applicants who engage with the school.

Why is it important to plan a campus visit?

It’s hard to know if you’ll like a car enough to buy it before you test drive it. College campus visits are similar. They serve as a test drive, allowing you to get a feel for the vibe of the campus and the rigor of the academics. Up to this point in your life, choosing a college will be one of the most significant decisions you’ll make. It’s important to be happy with your choice.

Are college tours worth it?

Our experts have worked with thousands of college-bound students over the years. Many of them have mentioned that campus visits played a major role in their decision. College tours are absolutely worth the time and expense because you’ll be able to make a decision more confidently.

What should you bring to a college visit?

You don’t need to pack as if you’re going on a week-long hiking excursion, but you should bring a few items to help you get the most out of the experience. You’ll want your phone (to take pictures), a notepad and a couple of pens (to take notes), and a prepared list of questions and places that you’d like to visit. If you’ll be doing an interview on campus, remember to dress appropriately. (And don’t forget to bring a copy of this college visit checklist so you get the most out of your campus trip.)

What month is best for college visits?

There’s no universal right or wrong answer. However, it’s often preferable to visit during a semester so that you can get a sense of what the campus is like when all of the students are there. Additionally, if you’re from a warm climate, visiting a cold climate school during the winter can be a good way to gauge whether you can handle the cold weather. However, if you’re unable to visit during a semester, take advantage of spring break or summer vacation to plan your college visits. Be sure to check for available tours before making any plans.

What should you not ask on a college tour?

There really aren’t any dumb questions. However, you should research the school thoroughly online first. Try to avoid asking questions that can be easily answered with a little online research. In addition, it’s best not to ask your tour guide personal questions or to request special favors.

What can I expect on a college visit?

College visits generally include structured and unstructured components. You’ll almost always have an information session and a campus tour, and perhaps an interview. At some colleges, you may also be able to arrange to attend a class, club meeting, or sports practice, or meet with a professor. You’ll also have some unscheduled time, during which you can explore the campus on your own and check out the surrounding community.

Need help preparing for college?

At KD College Prep, our mission is to help students get into the colleges of their dreams through test prep programs (including online learning options) and college counseling services. Schedule a free consultation to get started. We can’t wait to learn more about your goals!

Jacky Gilchrist is a blog writer for KD College Prep.

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Gloria D. – Daughter, Class of 2021

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Kareena A. – Class of 2021

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Advika R. – Class of 2022

“I shifted toward taking practice tests and going to workshops because I felt those were the best ways to apply the concepts (I was) learning in class. I started applying the tips and tricks that the teachers were showing me in class. In conjunction, those two things helped me raise my score a lot because I was not a math kid before KD or high school. The repetition and being able to practice in a non-stressful environment and simulating that testing experience is something that was very beneficial for me... “The college counseling team was super patient and honest about the work I was submitting. I know for a lot of kids, it’s hard to articulate who you are through 250-300 words. It was definitely... Read more...
“I shifted toward taking practice tests and going to workshops because I felt those were the best ways to apply the concepts (I was) learning in class. I started applying the tips and tricks that the teachers were showing me in... Read more...

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Julio M. – Parent

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Beth L. – Advanced Start™ Parent

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“I wanted to say thank you to all of the teachers and directors at KD for helping me get a great score on the SAT® test. I started with a 1250 on the first KD test I took, and I got a 1530 on the December 5th SAT test. KD played a huge role in this, and I just wanted to say thanks to everyone there for helping me achieve this.”
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Vyom S. – Class of 2022

"Our twin 16-year-old boys used KD College Prep to study/practice for the PSAT test, and we believe the classes and coaching were invaluable. Very professional and concise. Worth every penny!"
"Our twin 16-year-old boys used KD College Prep to study/practice for the PSAT test, and we believe the classes and coaching were invaluable. Very professional and concise. Worth every penny!"

Jerry – Sons, Class of 2022

mithra testimonial
“I'm writing to thank the KD team for all the help and guidance over the last couple of years! All the resources provided were very useful to me and helped me achieve the scores I was aiming for on the PSAT, SAT®, and ACT® tests (1520, 1580, and 34). I really appreciate everyone's willingness to be flexible and accommodate my requests!”
“I'm writing to thank the KD team for all the help and guidance over the last couple of years! All the resources provided were very useful to me and helped me achieve the scores I was aiming for on the PSAT,... Read more...

Mithra A. – Class of 2022

"The resources that KD offers have greatly prepared me for the college admissions process. Without KD, I would not have been this prepared and confident... I am a rising senior, and I ended up receiving a 1570 on my SAT® test (third time) and a 35 on my ACT® test (first time). I remember the first ever practice test I took for the SAT test was a 1230 (about 1.5 yrs ago) and the first ever practice test I took for the ACT test was a 31 or 32 (about 6 months ago)."
"The resources that KD offers have greatly prepared me for the college admissions process. Without KD, I would not have been this prepared and confident... I am a rising senior, and I ended up receiving a 1570 on my SAT® test... Read more...

Elise P. – Class of 2022

“I want to thank KD College Prep for helping both of my kids over the last years reach successful outcomes on their SAT® and ACT® scores, which helped them get into great colleges. I found the college prep class for parents very informative and helpful during the process as well.  My son (Jacob) graduated in 2018 and got a 32 on the ACT test. got accepted into Texas A&M but chose Baylor for Health Sciences.  My daughter (Morgan) graduated in 2020 and got a 1450 on the SAT test and a 32 on the ACT test. got into an Ivy League school (Cornell) for Engineering.  Both my kids say that they apply the test taking skills they learned at KD Prep to... Read more...
“I want to thank KD College Prep for helping both of my kids over the last years reach successful outcomes on their SAT® and ACT® scores, which helped them get into great colleges. I found the college prep class for parents... Read more...

Jon D. – Parent

“Coming into this whole process, I had absolutely no idea what anything was, and your help was invaluable—your encouraging words, strategic advice, and wholesome stories and jokes really got me through a stressful time! I'm still on the waitlist at Harvard and other schools, but I've really started to immerse into the Emory culture, especially their debate team. Not having to pay for college and still attend a private institution is really a dream come true, and it wouldn't be possible if it were not for you.”
“Coming into this whole process, I had absolutely no idea what anything was, and your help was invaluable—your encouraging words, strategic advice, and wholesome stories and jokes really got me through a stressful time! I'm still on the waitlist at Harvard... Read more...

Shreyas R. – Class of 2020

“The most beneficial guidance I received during my College Counseling experience was being taught that it's completely ok to not know what I want to do with the rest of my life at 17/18 years old. Steve told me that a good school will help me find my path. Also, Steve's knowledge about what colleges were wanting to see in potential admissions candidates was a huge help... “There was not one specific beneficial moment or turning point in my time working with Steve, there were many. He encouraged me during the entire application process and brought to my attention many colleges I wouldn't have considered or heard about without his help.”
“The most beneficial guidance I received during my College Counseling experience was being taught that it's completely ok to not know what I want to do with the rest of my life at 17/18 years old. Steve told me that a... Read more...

Jake W. – Class of 2020

"I'm very happy my daughter chose KD as her learning partner to achieve her goals. All the experiences with KD and the Directors there are fabulous. My daughter has improved significantly."
"I'm very happy my daughter chose KD as her learning partner to achieve her goals. All the experiences with KD and the Directors there are fabulous. My daughter has improved significantly."

Zarni, Daughter – Class of 2021

"I took KD classes the summer before my junior year, and I was finished with my SAT® test by December...The test prep classes also helped me earn the award of National Merit® Finalist."
"I took KD classes the summer before my junior year, and I was finished with my SAT® test by December...The test prep classes also helped me earn the award of National Merit® Finalist."

Claire I. – Class of 2020

"It's been super helpful, and I've noticed my scores go up both on my SAT®/ACT® scores as well as test scores in school... Overall, I believe this to be the best college prep that money can buy."
"It's been super helpful, and I've noticed my scores go up both on my SAT®/ACT® scores as well as test scores in school... Overall, I believe this to be the best college prep that money can buy."

Gopi C. – Class of 2021

"KD helped me come up with a game plan for the colleges I wanted to attend, as well as any backups, and how to manage my time during this stressful period. They helped to ease the stress and made sure that I would be successful in whichever college I picked, and I am eternally grateful for all their help and hard work!"
"KD helped me come up with a game plan for the colleges I wanted to attend, as well as any backups, and how to manage my time during this stressful period. They helped to ease the stress and made... Read more...

Omar S. – Class of 2020

"My initial goals when I first started working with the KD Counseling crew was to compile a list of colleges that I would be somewhat interested in attending and fit my career goals. I think that this step I was by far the most concerned about. I didn’t know how exactly I should go about choosing which places to apply to and if I were to be accepted, if they would fit me. The team did a wonderful job considering my likes and dislikes and helped me compile a list of colleges that suited my tastes and would further my academic career. "After this integral first step, my focus turned towards time management and writing quality essays that would stand out to colleges. I got... Read more...
"My initial goals when I first started working with the KD Counseling crew was to compile a list of colleges that I would be somewhat interested in attending and fit my career goals. I think that this step I was by... Read more...

Nina H. – Class of 2020

"I was thankful for all the help I received from KD in preparing for my SAT® and ACT® exams. The workshops they offered, as well as the practice exams, gave me the tools I needed to do my very best."
"I was thankful for all the help I received from KD in preparing for my SAT® and ACT® exams. The workshops they offered, as well as the practice exams, gave me the tools I needed to do my very best."

Morgan D. – Class of 2020

"KDCP is a must for students wanting to stay a step ahead of the game for getting into college. My son has gained huge insight from the ACT®/SAT® practice workshops, practice tests, and essay class."
"KDCP is a must for students wanting to stay a step ahead of the game for getting into college. My son has gained huge insight from the ACT®/SAT® practice workshops, practice tests, and essay class."

Tiffany – Son, Class of 2021

"KD helped to increase the efficiencies of how I took the national exams. I was also able to implement these efficiencies in my daily school studies within the IB program at PESH. I would (and have) recommend KD to those students wanting an edge on their national test scores!"
"KD helped to increase the efficiencies of how I took the national exams. I was also able to implement these efficiencies in my daily school studies within the IB program at PESH. I would (and have) recommend KD to those students... Read more...

Daniel J. – Class of 2020

"Not only have I been able to significantly improve my test scores, I have learned a tremendous amount of information about the college application process due to complimentary events that KD offers."
"Not only have I been able to significantly improve my test scores, I have learned a tremendous amount of information about the college application process due to complimentary events that KD offers."

Sam H. – Class of 2020

"I came to KD the summer before my senior year with only my determination and big goals! KD provided me with the resources necessary to improve my test score to increase my chances at my dream school, Notre Dame, with the help from amazing teachers and staff. I am so grateful for KD!"
"I came to KD the summer before my senior year with only my determination and big goals! KD provided me with the resources necessary to improve my test score to increase my chances at my dream school, Notre Dame, with the... Read more...

Matt K. – Class of 2020

"I started classes at KD the summer before 9th grade. I...made a perfect score on the PSAT (earning the National Merit® scholarship) and, after taking the SAT® test only once (a relief!), scored a 1590/1600."
"I started classes at KD the summer before 9th grade. I...made a perfect score on the PSAT (earning the National Merit® scholarship) and, after taking the SAT® test only once (a relief!), scored a 1590/1600."

Thomas D. – Class of 2019

"In just one year, I was able to raise my score by 300 points and get into my dream school."
"In just one year, I was able to raise my score by 300 points and get into my dream school."

Piper F. – Class of 2020

"Having our recent GHS graduate attend KD was life changing. It provided our son with choices and opportunities that he might not have had otherwise."
"Having our recent GHS graduate attend KD was life changing. It provided our son with choices and opportunities that he might not have had otherwise."

Kathy – Son attends Mizzou

test prep testimonial grace
“I came to KD College Prep after already using another tutoring service which we were not seeing results with. Due to time constraints, the traditional classes were not going to be feasible for my daughter. They took the time to figure out a personal plan that would work for her and were always available for our questions and helping her reach her goals. Every employee from the managers to the students working at their locations are top notch.”
“I came to KD College Prep after already using another tutoring service which we were not seeing results with. Due to time constraints, the traditional classes were not going to be feasible for my daughter. They took the time to figure... Read more...

Tracy – Daughter, Class of 2020

"The KD College Prep course not only provided test practice but also motivated her to work hard for her college applications. It gave her the confidence to dream big!"

"The KD College Prep course not only provided test practice but also motivated her to work hard for her college applications. It gave her the confidence to dream big!"

Prema – Daughter attends Rice

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