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Get the most from your college campus visits

Have you ever noticed that the college rankings you (and many others) ask Google about only include the top 50 or so colleges? Most of these institutions are in the top tier category, meaning the acceptance rates are very low. Meanwhile, there are nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States! There are so many great institutions in our country students can call home.

As you begin planning your summer campus visits, I encourage you to check out a campus or two that you don’t know much about. If you’re not sure where to look, here are a couple of resources: has a fantastic map of colleges in the U.S. It is my #1 resource when helping my clients geographically plan their college trips. Another helpful resource is Colleges That Change Lives ( With acceptance rates dropping even lower in recent years for some of the elite colleges, and even some large public schools, it is important to include some schools on your list that have above a 50% acceptance rate to ensure your student has plenty of options in the spring of their senior year.

When visiting colleges, especially those you know little about, I advise you to do more than simply go through the more formal motions of a campus visit (i.e. campus tour, admissions presentation, sitting in on classes, etc.) Inspired by a list from NACAC, here are a few informal ways to get the most out of a campus visit:

  • Check out the school newspaper and other student publications.

  • Eat in the cafeteria.

  • Ask students about their favorite and least favorite parts about attending the school.

  • Wander around campus by yourself.

  • Browse the college bookstore.

  • Ask a student what they do on the weekends.

And if you do choose to attend an information session while you're on campus, here are some questions to consider asking:

  • Is housing guaranteed for all four years?

  • How easy is it for students to change majors?

  • What are the career placement stats upon graduation?

  • What is the four year graduation rate?

  • What kind of healthcare services are provided on campus?

Ultimately, the goal is for students to see if they can visualize themselves as students at the campus they're visiting, independent of the school’s level of “prestige.”

The admissions process can be highly unpredictable. Since COVID, for example, many schools have gone test-optional, increasing admissions numbers while lowering acceptance rates. Not taking these external factors into consideration may set students up for disappointment if they aren’t accepted to their top schools, causing unnecessary self-doubt and discouragement. Getting to know colleges and universities independent of how they are ranked online frees students and families up to find the school that is truly the best fit.

Here are two fantastic books I highly recommend that offer some perspective into this element of the college admissions process. (And a list of upcoming college fairs sponsored by NACAC this fall.)


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