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College Visits: The Game-Changing Second Look

Is ONE college visit to each campus on a student’s list of possible colleges enough?

How many college visits is the right number?

The first time students and parents visit a college, they get the planned, polished, and often pre-recorded version of what the school wants potential students to see. 

This leads to an important question:

  • Is ONE visit to each campus on a student’s list of possible colleges enough?

College Parenting Expert, Wendy David-Gaines, doesn’t think so. 

So, how many times should students make a visit to the place they might spend the next 4-6 years of their lives? Find out Wendy’s educated response and reasons why in her latest article:


The twin reasons to visit colleges determine the ideal number of times to visit a particular school. High school sophomores and juniors starting their search for colleges, seniors receiving offers of admission by April 1, and parents helping their college-bound can prepare to set aside both time and finances to get ready because the magic number is two per school. The second look often is a game-changer.

Colleges have information sessions and campus tours throughout the year but Open Houses and Admitted Student Days offer a more comprehensive overview usually with speakers providing insights on a variety of admission, financial, academic, extracurricular, and campus issues. There are often separate sessions for parents and students giving each a chance to learn with their own peers.

The double college visit plan rationale represents the initial visit for the college-bound to get acquainted and the second look for admitted students to fall in love. The first helps college searching students decide if the good on paper college matches expectations and should be included on the final list of colleges to send in applications. The next visit is for admitted students to determine if the college’s offer of admission should be accepted.

A lot can change in the mind of a student between the two excursions.

Senior year is filled with experiences leading to student independence and growth. He can switch areas of study making another college a more attractive option. She can prefer a special off-campus program with a more preferable location.

Meeting college staff, current students, and fellow prospective students can also have a profound influence. As the final college decision morphs from a dreamy possibility to an actual choice, admitted students look again with fresh eyes. They can reconsider stats like graduation and retention rates against their current interests in internships, job opportunities, extracurriculars, and college location. They can review their financial aid awards, honors, and other special programs/perks offered to gauge how much the school loves them back.

One important aspect can’t be learned without a visit. Open Houses and Admitted Student Days are special marketing events with the school hoping to impress as it woos students to want to attend. Colleges need a positive result so classrooms are filled with their top choices and college stats are raised. These days are also opportunities for families to measure how well school staff adapt when things go wrong like when more students show up than a room can accommodate, last-minute cancellation of a speaker, or rain causing an evacuation of a leaky tent.

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Going off-road after the campus tour enables students to wander at will and chat with others while observing a campus and surrounding community in action. Although the ultimate college choice should be a savvy consumer education purchase, students have to connect with their selection for motivation to do their best. Students can bring a bit of inspiration home with them via the free T-shirts and other promos from college visits emblazoned with the logo they will represent for the following four to six years.

College Visits: The Game Changing Second Look

Parents, how many times do you plan on visiting the campuses on your student’s college list? 

For those of us with students already in college, how many times did you visit before making a firm enrollment decision? 

Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments section below!

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