Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: College Visits, Part Three–After the Tour

by Mr. Michael Wagner

With spring arrives, one of the most common parts of the college going process is visiting colleges that may be on a student’s potential list or ones they have already decided to apply to. It is important to be organized with your accumulated information during college application planning. Students and families have admitted to me on numerous occasions that the amount of printed marketing materials that a student receives during their junior and senior years of high school is overwhelming. And that is in addition to the constant stream of emails.

Maintaining organization of college visit information can be just as challenging. The following are a few tips to help document what occurred during the visit, to build a relationship with the university, and to help in the decision-making process about where to apply. The college visit is one of the best ways to understand the culture, landscape, and vibe of a college; therefore, capturing the details of that visit will be quite valuable not only as you decide where to apply, but also when you decide which college you will ultimately attend.

student writing in a journal

Journal the experience

I am a strong proponent of journaling for students to properly document their high school experiences. It is the best way for students to establish a database of information to draw on as they write college essays, narrow their application list, and ultimately decide where to attend.

Summarize your experience. Start at your arrival on campus—what where your first impressions? How did you feel when you walked around campus and listened to the tour guide? What were the dorms like? The student union? The library? Look at pictures you took and associate your thoughts with those photos. One of the things I advise students to do is create a list with pluses on one side and minuses on the other. This will help you understand some of the things that are really important to you. Summarize the visit by identifying the key aspects and your overall impression. This will assist you in determining why certain colleges will be chosen over others as you finalize your college list. Ultimately, can you see yourself walking the campus and attending this school? Remember, this will be one of the most important decisions a student makes in their young adult lives.

a thank you card

Old-fashioned thank you cards

Another thing to capture in your notes is the names of anyone that you came in contact with while on the tour. This includes the college representative(s) you met, your tour guide, and the person who conducted the information session.  If you sat in on a class during the tour include the professor or anyone associated with the class experience as well.

Then write a thank you note or two. When writing a thank you note, express your thoughts about the tour, what made it enjoyable for you, and your enthusiasm (if it is genuine) about your interest in applying, if you have made that decision. Being able to reference the names of the people who you interacted with is powerful. Remember, this thank you note is not the final communication you may have with this person; it is a great way to establish a relationship as you move through the application process.

hands on a laptop

Conduct further research

If you decide that the college you visited will make your list, be it the long list or definitely the short list of ten, revisit the website and review the admissions marketing materials you received on the tour. Again, journal the highlights that draw you to the university—what makes this college so appealing to you that you could see yourself spending a few years of your life on the campus?

 Then, review the list of majors, focus on the academic life of the school, look at aspects that you know are important to you such as support services, dorm living options, extracurricular options, clubs and organizations, and student life as a whole. Don’t forget to consider access to the recreation center and exercising options since practicing a healthy lifestyle needs to be a top priority while attending college.

university building facade

When you can’t visit

Visiting colleges is a very important task during the college application process and should be done as much as you can. However, depending on the location, your time, and the cost involved it may not always be possible. But remember, if you are not able to travel to all your schools, even visiting some local universities will help you focus on those aspects of the living and learning environment that are most important to a positive experience for you.  If you can’t visit a college, at least try to see if the school offers a virtual tour online so you at can at least get a glimpse of the school’s facilities, layout, and offerings.

Lastly, don’t forget that one of the best things to do during your college application process is to keep your parents and guardians involved in each step. After you have captured your thoughts, sit down with them and share the information. Trust me, they will enjoy it.

Good luck and happy touring.
Mr. Michael J. Wagner

Michael Wagner, MAED is a founder and the Knowledge Pilot for Launch Education.  Mr. Mike has assisted hundreds of students around the world on their college pathways.