College Admissions: The 5 Biggest Campus Visit Mistakes

Monday, February 02, 2015


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February is a key month for college visits.

With February and March school vacations around the corner, families are busy planning college visits. If you have a junior in high school, now is the time to get on the road! Families who delay inevitably face a myriad of empty campus tours in summer, or a rush of stressful visits in the fall of senior year.

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This rarely helps a student make the right choice. Also, keep in mind that if you plan to take advantage of early action and decision programs, most deadlines are in November 1, leaving little time in the fall of senior years for road trips. What are the key mistakes to avoid?

1. Not visiting colleges within a 6-hour drive of home.

If you live in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, a college in Arizona will understand if you don’t visit until after you are accepted. However, a college in New Jersey or Maine will most likely think that you aren’t truly interested if you fail to visit before you submit your application. The reality is that many colleges are now calculating an interest factor, and campus visits count. So, don’t be surprised if you get rejected from a college that you thought was a sure thing, if you live within 6 hours and haven’t visited.

2. Skipping the official tour and info session.

This is not the time for a “drive by viewing”. Colleges need to know that you took the time to do a formal visit, and you need to see the full array of opportunities at each college. Most colleges have information sessions and tours several times a week and on Saturdays. You can register on the admissions page or by calling the school.

3. Judging a college by one or two individuals.

Parents and students often make the mistake of discounting a great college because the person who lectured at the information session or led the tour turned them off. Other times, students rule out a school and never visit because they dislike someone they know who attends the college. It is CRITICAL that parents and students have the maturity to look at the big picture and determine if a school is the right fit--NOT make a judgment based on one or two individuals.

4. Not asking the tough questions.

Students are often afraid to ask questions in the information session, or cringe when their parents raise a hand. Don’t be shy. Ask about 4 year graduation rates, required GPA for merit aid, how hard it is to get into classes, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, campus safety, or what how many students drop out of the pre-med program. On student led tours, ask your guide what they feel is the best thing about the college and the worst thing. Getting administrators and students “off script” will usually yield the best insight to life on campus.

5. Visiting campuses when they are NOT in session.

It’s important to view schools when students are on campus. If you wait until summer, you won’t be able to determine if a campus is dead on the weekends, or if the students are too sporty or too artsy for your tastes. Some colleges will even let you sit in on a class. I recommend visiting the student café after your tour to chat with students; it’s a great way to get the “real skinny” on the school.

For colleges outside of your geography, consider an online tour at or Another great resource is The Insider’s Guide to Colleges by the Yale Daily News which delves into life on about 300 U.S. campuses based on student surveys and interviews. It’s not your ordinary college guide.


Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students.


Related Slideshow: Best Ski + Snowboard Colleges in the East

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Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

With Stowe and Sugarbush nearby, finding challenging terrain is not an issue at colleges in northern Vermont. Students at Middlebury enjoy the Snow Bowl, owned by the college, for a quick few runs when they are not up for a car ride. In less than a half hour however, they can hit the slopes at Sugarbush or Stowe. You will need to be a top student to get into Middlebury though; with an acceptance rate of just 17%, the college is among a handful of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country.

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University of Vermont

Burlington, VT

Heading north, in the picturebook city of Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain, you will find the University of Vermont. Famous for producing both Alpine and Downhill Olympic skiers, UVM is a mecca for winter sports lovers. Buses head from campus to the slopes on the weekends, and students tune their skis in the dorm hallways at night. Sugarbush and Stowe are the most popular ski destinations for UVMers, but Smuggler’s Notch and Jay Peak also draw sports classes and snowboarders looking for slopes off the beaten path. UVM is different than most state schools in that 75% of students come from out-of-state, the university boasts an amazing honors college, it’s home to a ground breaking environmental studies program and a highly rated medical school.

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St. Michael's College

Colchester, VT

Nearby in Colchester, St. Michael’s is a hidden gem among Catholic colleges in New England. St. Mike’s has a warm, pretty campus with a wide variety of majors, including business. Easy access to Burlington and all the same ski areas as UVM, make St. Mike’s a great option for students wanting a small college with reasonable acceptance rates and a nurturing academic environment.

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Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

For skiers and snowboarders who can make the Ivy League cut, there is really only one college: Dartmouth. Whether you race cross country or are a downhill enthusiast, Dartmouth’s long tradition of elite athletics will ensure top notch competition. Dartmouth has their own “SkiWay”, but it’s not on campus and most students prefer the challenge of a bigger mountain. Since Dartmouth sits close to the New Hampshire/Vermont boarder, there are quite a few options for big mountain skiing, with Killington and Okemo less than 45 minutes away.

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New England College

Henniker, NH

New England College in Henniker is a tiny, ski lovers’ gem. For students who prefer a small college with very personal attention, NEC is a great choice. Those with learning differences will also find a warm and accepting environment with professor mentorships and all the tools necessary to succeed in college.  Students at NEC form a tight knit community and can often be seen heading off with boards tucked under their arms in groups each afternoon to hit the slopes at nearby Loon or Waterville.

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Plymouth State University

Plymouth, NH

Plymouth State offers another option for boarders and skiers in central New Hampshire. With easy access to Waterville, Loon, Cannon and even the North Conway area, there are many choices for big mountain skiing. The college sprawls up the hillside in the quaint town of Plymouth, which is filled with shops and restaurants. With a medium size student body, reasonable acceptance rate and low tuition, Plymouth State is easily accessible for many students.


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