M.T. of Little Neck, NY writes:

I am about to enter my senior year of high school, and will soon be preparing my college applications (YIKES!). I'd like to visit a few colleges this fall, but want to know if such campus tours are really worthwhile. Any thoughts?

The College Whisperer responds:

Lots of thoughts, M.T. [Right about now, I'm thinking "lunch." ;~)].

Yes, campus tours, particularly at colleges that top your wish list, are worthwhile. Visits to campus will give you -- and your parents -- a first-hand look at the places you will consider spending the next four years. The grounds. The classrooms. The research facilities. The library. The dorms. The dining halls. The student union.

Sit in on a lecture. Stay overnight at a dorm. Eat the food (Pepto sold separately). Get a feel for college life.

When visiting campus, you will have the opportunity to take a guided tour, to meet with admissions and financial aid officers, and, most important, to ask questions. The stuff you just cannot get from a viewbook or website.

Ideally, you'd want to plan a campus visit to every college you intend to apply to. Practically, given limitations of both time and money, this is not realistic.

Choose the top college prospects, keeping in mind distance and travel expense (you may not be able to visit the University of Hawaii this go 'round), and plan your trip.

Make it a family event, keeping in mind that you will want your parents to share the experience, especially if they are bearing the cost. Plan to go when school is in session, and check out the college's website for tour information and, where applicable, registration. [It is always advisable to register, when possible, for campus tours. (A) Your space will be reserved. (B) It let's college officials know that you have a serious interest in the school.]

Of course, given the constraints, economic, spacial, and otherwise, doubtful you will get to every college campus (unlike Phish or The Jonas Brothers).

That said, the next best thing to being there (well, almost), is a virtual campus visit.

Check out campustours.com and ecampustours.com (because campustours.com was already taken ;-), as well as the ever-popular youniversitytv.com.

You'll at least get a taste of what college and campus life is like, if not the full flavor. And virtually (pun intended) every school offers an online tour of one sort or another, on one of the e-tour sites, its own website, or both.

Even if you can't visit any or all of the schools you will be applying to this fall, do plan to visit colleges to which you have been accepted in the spring, before you make your final decision. This is a big step (and likely, a big expense), so you will want to walk the walk on campus before you commit.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the applications, the standardized tests, and the angst that goes with it all, here's a College Connection perennial favorite, the tour of the college library. This one always brings a smile to The College Whisperer's face. Hope you like it, too!

E-mail The College Whisperer at info@TheCollegeWhisperer.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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