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Winter and spring breaks will soon be upon us. Now is a great time to plan out some college visits!

I recommend that families first take an in-person look at a variety of colleges so that students can get a sense of location (urban, suburban, or rural) and size (small, medium, large, enormous). Visiting the colleges that they may actually apply to is less important at first. I’ve found that it is very hard for teenagers to figure out what they want in a college if they haven’t stepped foot on a large university or small college campus. Visiting a metropolitan area, such as Boston, Philly, or Chicago, can give you many options to explore, and often you can find suburban and even more rural colleges not too far away.

If you can, try to involve your kid in the planning. Have them open their favorite map app, plot some colleges that are in the vicinity of each other, and, when it’s time, get on college websites and make an appointment for a tour and/or information session. You can also drive around any nearby campuses to get a quick read of size and location.

Once you’ve (ideally) taken the campus tour and attended the info session, it’s important to take the time to walk around the campus. Looking a little lost and seeing how students react can be quite revealing. Are they friendly and helpful? Or can they not be bothered to help a stranger? Try to eat on campus, too. Nothing is better than watching kids eat and socialize (are they interacting with each other or are they on their phones or wearing earbuds?) while sampling the food. Read the bulletin boards (you can get a real sense of the vibe and community from campus flyers). Grab a campus newsletter and read it in full; you’ll get a great idea of student opinions, and you’ll note whether there are significant campus issues. Visit the bookstore. And, if you can, try to strike up a conversation with a current student. They can be incredibly useful! Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Why did you decide to go here?

  • What are your 3 favorite things about this college?

  • What surprised you when you first arrived?

  • What are 2 things you would change if you could?

  • How did you meet your closest friends?

  • What do you do in your free time?

Please check out this “College Visit Checklist” from my website: Writing down your thoughts right after these visits is super important. If you’re visiting a few colleges over a few days, they can really start blending together!

I help students and their families navigate the college admissions process. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially. Contact me at for a 30 minute complimentary session to learn more!

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