Setting Goals for Your College Visits

Setting Goals for Your College Visits

UNC College VisitA while back I was taking a walk with a friend who had just returned from a recent 10-day vacation to the east coast with her son who is a rising high school senior. She was telling me that they decided to visit only a couple of college campuses during their trip (they took the group tours at NYU and Tufts) because she thinks these visits are boring and her son does not get much out of them.

Interesting that she felt that she could share this sentiment with me, knowing that arranging college visits and coordinating the travel itineraries is what I do.

As a result, it has been in the back of my mind for some time to speak to the topic of how to make the most out of college visits and to put forth some thought-provoking questions that may help you in planning your upcoming visits.

When I first start working with students, I ask them to fill out a 3-page questionnaire. I make sure to tell them that this is not a test and there are no right or wrong answers. There are two questions in particular, the answers to which I find extremely helpful:

  • Are there any specific academic areas youd like to explore?
  • Aside from academics, what do you consider to be the five most important things that you’re looking for in a college? These could be anything a variety of dining choices, certain clubs you’d like to join, college traditions, community service opportunities, a championship football or basketball team, Greek life, etc.


How do these questions affect their visits? Depending upon the answers (in conjunction with others on the questionnaire), I know how to best move forward with making customized, in-depth arrangements for each of the campuses that they will be visiting. The goal is to have each student make the most of his or her time on campus. While I almost always schedule a group tour and a group information session so clients can get a good overview of the institution, we need to do much more than that if we are to achieve our goal.

Lets use as an example an itinerary that I recently planned for a high school junior who was visiting colleges in Washington, DC and New York. While he doesn’t know yet what he specifically wants to major in, he is interested in taking courses in political science, sustainability/environmental studies, history, and international relations. He is active in Model UN and would like to continue while attending college. When planning his campus visits, wherever possible we included meetings with current students active in the International Relations Club. He had the opportunity to ask them questions not only about Model UN, but about life on campus as well. He had meetings with professors that were able to talk to him about their departments and answer his questions. He attended classes in areas of interest to him. And he had time to visit the area surrounding each of the campuses.

This student came away from each visit with a good idea of the pulse of each campus — and his experience was anything but boring!

While not always the case, many students and parents, when I first meet with them, know that there is a need for, and want to plan college visits. Yet, they do not have a clear idea of what they want to do or should do when they get there. Its important to remember that the most important aspect of the college search process is for your teen to find those institutions that align most closely with their academic, extra-curricular and lifestyle interests.

Whether you have someone to help you with the logistics or you choose to plan the itineraries yourself, you and your teen need to first determine your goals for the visits. Start with the basic question: what do you hope that your teen will get out of these college visits?

Janice Caine

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