Campus Visits and Your College Applications

Go See Campus focuses on campus visits and college trip planning so that high school students get more out of their college search experience. Another important benefit visits offer: seeing schools in person can help with admissions.

For example, campus visits give students a chance to meet admissions staff and to show who they are beyond test scores and grade point average. This is especially true if the admissions office provides in-person college interviews.

Also, some schools take into account “demonstrated interest” when evaluating college applications. Visits, online contact with the admissions office, stopping by a local college fair booth, or other activities might be considered "demonstrated interest."

All of this aside: What can campus visits do for students later on, when it's just them and a blank college application?

Making It Personal with Campus Visits

High school students may respond to essay questions as part of their admissions applications. With these questions:

  • College admissions offices are trying to determine if the student is a good fit for the school and if the school is a good fit for the student.
  • Essays give students a chance to show that they have thought long and hard about selecting a college. Providing clear answers shows that students value the admissions decision.
  • Admissions essays provide space for students to share something important about themselves that may not be apparent in other parts of the application.

While all of this sounds great, a blank essay page can feel like a student's worst enemy. Even deceptively simple questions like, "Why did you choose to apply to this college?" have so many potential answers that students can begin to second-guess their approach.

For students who make campus visits, there is some good news. The experiences they have at each college can help them respond in a way that is personally meaningful. This can help them focus their answers and get to the heart of what colleges really want to know.

Common Essay Questions and the Role of Campus Visits

Consider some typical essay prompts…

  1. Why did you choose this college?
  2. What is your favorite subject in school and why?
  3. Discuss one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

None of them requires a student to have made campus visits in order to answer. After all, not every student can see every college before applying, and there are other ways to get to know a college.

That said, each writing prompt gives students who have visited a chance to demonstrate their personal connection to the college. Here are some examples:

1. Why did you choose this college?

One way of interpreting this question: "What is it that makes our college the best fit for your interests? How will you contribute to our campus, and how will our resources help you make the most of your experience?"

Campus visits can help high schoolers define what they want from a college. Once students know what they want, they can use additional campus visits to decide whether a particular school is a match.

So, students who have visited campus might answer this question based on how their academic focus, career aspirations, or extracurricular activities fit with their college visit. Experiences with a college's professors, classes, academic programs, and student organizations might all contribute to the essay.

2. What is your favorite subject in school and why?

Colleges that ask this question may want to see that a student has academic curiosity and the potential for advancing the field of study.

Students who have made campus visits can tie their academic interests to their experiences sitting in on classes or meeting with professors. If the student's visit got him or her excited about assisting in research, utilize world-class technology, or take part in academic organizations, the essay is a great way to show this passion.

3. Discuss one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

High school extracurricular activities and work experiences can demonstrate character, shape careers, and offer promise for college campus involvement. Campus visits give students a chance to see college extracurricular activities for themselves and to tie them to their high school interests in an essay.

Students should consider contacting student organizations in advance of their visits to see if they can take part in an event or connect with the club's leaders. This approach also works if there are student-run businesses on campus that match with a high schooler's career interests.

Before You Go

It's incredibly exciting to travel to different towns, explore colleges, and begin thinking about life after high school. If there is one takeaway from this article for students, it's this: when you make campus visits, find a moment to consider the same questions you will answer in college applications.

"What does this college offer that makes it the place for me?" and "What do I think about the classes and academic programs?" are valuable questions to ask. Thinking about these things as you're exploring schools will make it easier both to choose and apply to colleges.

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