No matter how many people say that college visits are important to determining where you want to go, they truly are not. What is shown at a college visit is a thin surface barely touching upon what the true college life is like (and even then, it’s different for every person). And more times than not, it is not even a thin surface, but a superficial surface.
Because let’s be honest, most students fall in love with their college decision regardless, whether it is to reassure themselves that they made the correct decision or that they truly love the college (most times, it is a combination of both). Rather than visit colleges and then submit applications and then visit colleges again, it is much more sensible to just submit applications and then visit the colleges you are accepted into for a number of reasons:
Building up high expectations and attachment to one school
College visits are full of optimism, granted not always unfounded. They depict the most brilliant aspects of college life, from extracurriculars to annual traditions. What tour guides fail to mention is that hardly every single prospective student they speak to will actually be accepted into the college. The give a sense that it is the student having a fair pick of a number of institutions when at the crux of the matter, it is the institution’s decision that truly matters. As Ollivander put it, the wand chooses the wizard. In this case, you can choose Harvard, but Harvard won’t necessarily choose you.
All of the information you get at a college visit is most likely online
You might miss out on breathing the actual campus air or seeing the buildings in person, but for what really matters, Google is the best source to turn to. A college’s newspaper reveals a wealth of information about an institution, from its scandals to its student projects to simply the quality of the student-run paper. Financial aid, choices of majors, different research opportunities, clubs, and classes are all publicly available online. And drawing on point number 1, if you get into the college, you are normally sent a plethora of information, including contacts of current college students who share interests with you. Those are the sources with the most valuable information–actual student experience.
All college visits are the same
Well that is most certainly a hefty generalization. True, not all college visits are the exact carbon copies of one another, but they more or less follow the same formula of praising all of the opportunities on campus and not really addressing anything applicable to oneself. Soon or later you learn that all college have “generous” financial aid, helpful professors and mentors, a wide range of extracurriculars, plenty of research opportunities, strong school spirit (although this may be expressed in a variety of ways), etc.
College visits are not reliable
The words coming from a tour guide’s mouth are not to far off from advice from any stranger. Take it with a grain of salt. Guides have to take into account the adults accompanying their children who may not be so happy to learn about the party scene on campus, among other questionable activities. Thus, the most useful and helpful source of college information is your high school’s alumni. These people tend to give the most specific experiences and also have no obligation to cater to parents who may be on college tours as well. In other words, students are more willing to discuss the potential downsides to a college as well as other “inside” information.
Imagine all the time you could be spending on perfecting your college applications or working on that project that you had no time to do during your high school career
All in all, college visits waste valuable time. While visiting colleges after acceptances are sent out is reasonable, the first half of senior year of high school is stressful enough. And even if there is plenty of time to sit in at another tour about the wonderful staff, faculty, and campus environment at xyz university, wouldn’t you much rather be working on that novel you started but never finished? Or finally learning web design? Or watching Netflix?