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College Visits: When & How To Do Them Right

There are a lot of important questions about making the most of college visits and college tours. Listen in to know the fundamental ideas that can help you understand HOW to make the most of your visits. 

“College preparation is an exciting thing for young people. That process should be healthy, exciting, empowering. And it should build a child’s confidence. It’s a process you should begin preparing early.”

Today, let’s talk about college visits.

Because with just a little foresight, you can begin planning those college visits much more effectively. And so with that being said, let’s dive right into it!


  • What time of the year is the best time to visit colleges… and when not
  • One thing I recommend that all parents should do
  • Why planning early is key to your child’s success
  • How to make the most out of college visits
  • What questions should be asked while on the tour or on-campus

     And so much more.


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Let's talk about college visits. When should we go? What age is the right time to attend? How do we prepare for these visits? How do we get the most out of our visits? These are really good questions. With just a little foresight, you can begin to plan out your college visits much more effectively in an effort to make this as efficient as possible. Let's just dive right in. What time of year when should we attend?

So many people talk about how springtime is college visit time. Sure. Springtime is great. If you want to go during the spring, that's a great time to go. If you want to go during the winter, that's a great time to go. When it comes to the time of year to go and attend school, there are only two things that I think you should really think about. Number one is you want to be there when the actual college students are there. So summer and spring break, and Christmas vacation, those times are not the best times to visit colleges. You want to be able to see what the colleges are like with the students on campus so that you can see what school is like during the school year.

The only other thing to consider is what time of year you want to know about. If you want to know how wonderful the school is in the spring? Then great in the spring. But if you want to know how difficult it is during the winter, then you should probably visit during the winter. And that's all I will say about that. Colleges will want you to come in the spring or in the fall when the weather is the best. If the college is situated in an area with harsh winters, then they're probably going to really want you to come in the spring or the fall. But if you want to know what it's like in the wintertime, then you should visit in the wintertime.

Now an even better question, what age should we begin attending? I have gotten this question so many times. If you've been listening to my podcast for a while, you will not be surprised by my answer. College preparation is an exciting thing for young people, and you should begin preparing early. One of the things that I recommend all parents do if they've got an elementary school-age child finds a pennant that the child thinks is attractive is a college university pennant. It doesn't even matter which one. If you loved your school, go ahead and get one from your school, or if there's a local state school or any other school that you love, then it doesn't matter, but put a college pennant up in the bedroom. Just having that will get the child to begin thinking about and talking about college. When you share excitement and enthusiasm around this whole idea of becoming a better person so that you can give yourself an advantage in college admissions, that whole process should be healthy and exciting and empowering. It should build the child's confidence.

So do it in a way that builds their confidence and builds excitement for college. College visits can begin very early if you have a sibling who is attending college, then come along for fun, even if you're in elementary school, bring those kids along and allow them to experience it, allow them to tag along and just see what their older brother or older sister or older cousin is excited about. And allow the younger kids, even elementary-age kids, to listen in on the conversations that you have with your teenagers who are preparing for college or are applying.

Now the actual visits that are done for you can begin in grade eight and grade nine, but probably not much before grade eight. But those are actual visits. Remember that by the time you get to grade 11, when some people recommend you go visit, you start your college visits, and you're gonna be really busy. So I wouldn't plan on having a ton of time in grade 11 and grade 12 to go and visit lots of campuses and be in any state of mind to be able to evaluate them and to be able to think clearly about them. You're just not going to be able to do that. And especially when we talk about how to make the most of these visits, you'll see that you want to begin them earlier on so that you can tie in your impact project. You can tie in phase one and phase two of the ivy league and challenge yourself with your awareness of your core values and your impact project.

So let's talk about that. How do you visit? What's the best way to prepare for these visits? How do you make the most of them? First of all, as you move towards grade 11, you're going to need to get more and more serious about these visits. Every visit is going to include an opportunity cost, so the time that you spend visiting these schools, you can't be using that same time to be doing other things like visiting other schools. But earlier in grade 89, even into grade 10, you can explore anything. And I would recommend that you cast a really wide net at that stage. Literally, you should be visiting your local community college, and you should be visiting your state college, or private colleges. When you go on vacations or when you travel somewhere, make it a point to visit a college in the local area just to get to know how these colleges are different. Big schools versus small schools, community colleges versus state schools, versus private schools, and schools that focus on the arts or other schools that focus on athletics or whatever the case may be. You should really be casting a wide net and just have everything on the table; just get to know what the differences are.

By grade 9, 10, and certainly by 11, you should know that many of these schools care about a thing called demonstrated interest. The idea here is that when you demonstrate interest when you show that you're interested in the school, you're more likely to choose the school after you've been admitted.

And so many schools take that into consideration; if you are serious about a school and you want to increase your chances of getting in, then absolutely you should attend that school and make it official, get into the official tour, meet the admissions officers, or at least the students who give the tours and make it official, make sure your name gets on the registration and that you're there.

But you should realize that some schools do not care about demonstrated interest. So if they don't care, then don't worry about making sure that you're on the role. Now, regardless of the grade that you're in, you should bring a camera or your phone. Everyone's got a camera at all times, but be aware that you have a camera so that you can take pictures of interesting things, things that you find interesting or inspiring that are on the campus; bring your camera and bring a notebook. Trust me. At some point, when you do apply to these schools, you're going to pull out that notebook and those pictures. And you're going to remember some of the interesting experiences you had on that campus. And that will help you to write intelligent things in the why us essays. So the first way to make the most of your visit is to bring a camera and a notebook and use them.

The second thing is to plan ahead for the schools that you do care about and think about the opportunities. Can you attend a class? Can you find a specific class that you want to attend? So you can reach out to the professor directly or ask your regional admissions officer if they can work out a way for you to attend that class? If you plan ahead, you can talk to people that you've previously emailed, like the admissions officers, professors, or perhaps even students that are on that campus. If you have a plan, then you're going to be able to see more facilities, and you're going to know which facilities you're most interested in. I strongly recommend that in your plan, you incorporate lots of extra time. That's just for spontaneity. For throwing a frisbee with college students on the quad, or for just sitting and people-watching, or for chatting with someone in the lunchroom or the cafeteria, or whatever else might happen on campus, just plan extra time in there. That's just spontaneous time. Also, I recommend you visit the community too, and you're gonna be living there for 345 years, or maybe even longer. Are you going to enjoy the community outside of the college campus?

And then finally, in this kind of plan ahead section, my last piece of advice is to plan on debriefing with your parents afterward. Keep written notes of your debrief. Talk about the things you loved and the things you didn't love, and just write down some bullet points, those extra few minutes that you spend chatting about it, and then write down your conclusions, writing down your thoughts at the end of that discussion, at the end of the debrief with your parents. Those notes, I promise you, will turn out to be priceless for you.

The third thing, in order to make the most of your college visits, you should visit with your impact project top of mind. I've already alluded to this in the plan ahead section, but let's get into the details. You should email your admissions officer to ask about relevant facilities and people on campus.

By now, if you've been in the Ivy League Challenge, you already know that in phase three, we talk about how to network with your admissions officer. So by now, they're already familiar with your impact project. And what you're doing inside your community. When you visit the campus, this is your opportunity to reach out to that admissions officer and say my impact project, and you don't call it your impact project, right? You call it your mission, you call it your crusade, you call it whatever you want to call it. But you tell them, look, my mission, my big impact that I'm making in my community. I want to scale that impact when I get to your community when I get to college. And so these are the facilities that I think I've found on your campus that is probably relevant to my impact. These are the people that I think I found that I think would be relevant. Can you help make arrangements for me to meet with these people and see these facilities? Can you make any suggestions of other people that I might want to meet or facilities that I might want to see? It begins with the admissions officer.

Then you move on from there, using the email templates that you have from phase three to email the professors, and even email students, leaders, clubs, and organizations. Anything that you can potentially use to leverage or expand or scale the impact of your impact project. You should be reaching out to those people. You will want them on your side when it comes time for you to apply. Once you've done that, then just add that to your plan, right? Visit the facilities that are related to your impact project. And as you're visiting these people in these facilities, talk about how you're going to continue, or you're going to improve on your impact project. When you get to campus, the 4th big piece of advice that I have for you to make the most of your college visits is to visit with your core values at the top of your mind.

That's phase one of the ivy league challenge. We help you identify your core values and help you align your daily activities and your big goals, and your admission strategy around those core values so that you have the internal drive to really be amazing. Right? But here's the thing. You've identified your core values and who you are. And that's amazing. You've already realized how much of a difference that makes in your performance at school, and just in your overall satisfaction and the way that life becomes more meaningful, so how valuable is that for you?

Now turn it on its head when it comes to college. Instead of thinking about how lucky you'd be to get into any given college, you want to be thinking about how lucky that college will be to have. You remember who you are, your core values, your drivers, your strengths, your interest, and how you can make an impact in your community.

In fact, you have a track record of finding and then working toward solving real problems in the real world, and whichever college you choose to go to is going to be lucky to have you. Here's the thing. You want to find a college that not only you are in love with but that loves you back.

When you visit this college, you want to be thinking about the college's values. What does the college value? And how well does that align with your understanding of your own core values? There are many different ways to answer this. And I want to leave you open to think about that based on what your core values are. And what you find about the colleges online in the day, in live videos that you might find on youtube or Instagram. And in the different conversations that you have with professors, students, leaders, and admissions officers. All of this is so valuable, but the point is, for you to have top of mind, this idea that your core values. Now, can you understand the college's core values? What kinds of students are they really going to value? And what kind of students are they going to empower? Because you want a college that loves you back. So there you go. That is my advice for making the most of your college visits. Number one, bring your camera and your notebook, and be sure to keep track of the interesting things you find.

That will be useful later on. Number two: plan ahead, make the most of your day, find the facilities, and find the people that you want to talk to. And if you can attend a class and talk to real students while you're there. Number three, visit with the impact project Top of your mind, and number four, visit with your core values at, Top of your mind. If you do all four of these things, your visit will be extremely meaningful. It's a lot of fun. By the time you visit four or five, maybe even six campuses, you'll have a really good feel for what you're looking for in a college. And that may have occurred even before you get to your sophomore or June. Junior year.

But when it comes to admission strategy, you should be aware of the schools that care about demonstrated interest and be sure to meet the expectations that they have around demonstrating that interest. If you need to visit them again, go for it. But if you are following the strategies that we teach in the Ivy League Challenge, you will have demonstrated far more interest than almost anyone else. So that's not a huge concern from that perspective. Regardless, be sure to make these college visits fun, start them early, and make them just a regular part of growing up. It's a fun part of looking forward to kind of transitioning from being a child into a teenager and into a young adult. And that transition period should be something that we look forward to and that we're excited about. That is very positive and isn't stress-inducing or anxiety-inducing, but rather is this opportunity to grow into new responsibilities to develop higher levels of confidence.

And to just feel empowered. College visits are a great way to do that, to infuse fun into this process, and make our teenagers feel really excited about what's to come.