Where to Visit

Visiting colleges requires a lot of prior planning and thought. Since it is so expensive, there is no possible way you can visit every school you’re interested in. Instead, the list must be pared down in order to save both time and money. Keep in mind, no college is going to reject you because you fail to visit, and many people end up at universities they’ve never been to before. Demonstrated interest, however, is something that must be considered in order to get the most out of your visits. We’ll explore this facet of college visits in our post Interacting With Colleges (link). There are also other ways to determine where to go.

Before all else, think about price. As a resident of Los Angeles, I immediately visited UCLA, USC, CalTech, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Pomona, and other schools in the local area. With no hotels to pay for, there is absolutely no downside to visiting nearby colleges to get perspective on different types of cultures and school types. I only ended up applying to 2 of those, yet the understanding of college types was invaluable. Even UC Berkeley and Stanford were worth a drive. Outside of the local area, it’s still notable that travel to some schools is half the price of others since you’re closer. If you’re on the east coast, a visit to Stanford is probably way more costly than a visit to closer schools.

As you may have caught wind of above, it’s useful to see a diverse set of schools. Before experiencing it for yourself, it’s tough to understand what the difference is between urban, suburban, and rural, small, medium and large, or arts, tech, and liberal arts. Even if you don’t want to go to Amherst, a visit there is likely to show you whether it’s important to think about other small liberal arts colleges.

It’s also quite important to be realistic. In other words, there’s little to gain from visiting Harvard when you’re most likely not going to get in (even if you’re a child prodigy). Save that visit for after you get in, so that you don’t waste a ton of money on useless visits when you can’t get accepted. Furthermore, if you do end up getting in, you’re unlikely to turn these schools down. Statistically, these schools rarely get rejected by accepted students. Instead, travel to schools you’re on the fence about, which fall closer to the safety or target range (reference). In these cases, the college campus and culture are more likely to sway your decision. In addition, you’re less likely to waste a visit on a college you won’t get into. In this manner, you can maximize the chance that colleges you visit will actually be on the table later on, making visits most economically savvy.

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