Admissions tour guide Divine Zheng (wearing purple shirt and name tag), , gives a campus tour to high school students and parents in St. Paul on July 21, 2017. Zheng leads the group into the Anderson Student Center.

How to Make the Most of Your College Visits

College and university visits can be a whirlwind of nervousness, excitement, information and emotions. That can be an intimidating process.

Kristen Hatfield, Director of Admissions at the University of St. Thomas, has helped tens of thousands of students and their families through that process for more than two decades. While every student’s situation is unique, there are many things she’s learned can help pretty much everyone. This list of tips can help students and their families wherever they are in the process.

Give yourself time.

Try to spread your campus visits out as much as possible and avoid cramming everything into your senior year. As early as your first or sophomore year of high school can be a great time to get first peeks at schools, when you can simply go and get a feel for what life there might be like for you there. As you get further along into your junior and senior years you can seek out more detailed, information-gathering experiences.

Take advantage of the admissions resources.

Schools employ a wide range of people whose job is literally to make your campus visit the best it can possibly be, for you specifically. So, check out what events the schools you’re interested might have that you could attend, whether that’s a football game or a day designed specifically for visiting students. Call ahead a couple weeks before you want to visit and admissions counselors can tailor things exactly how you would want your visit to go, setting up any meeting with counselors, faculty, coaches or students. Plus, they’ll hook you up with free food.

Know yourself and what will be most comfortable for you.

If you’re the kind of person who loves getting into a group and soaking up an experience with others, you might want to check out a campus during a big visit or campus event. If you’re the kind of person who would get a lot more out of a one-on-one experience catered exactly to what you’re interested in, get in touch with the admissions office and they’ll get that set up, too. Be honest about what will be best for you and get the help to make it happen.

Understand the sky may not part in divine intervention as you step foot on campus, and that’s OK.

Especially as classmates share their joy in being accepted and choosing their school, it’s easy to think the “perfect school” is waiting for you to come visit, and when you’re there you’ll be struck by a thunderbolt of realizing, ‘This is it.’ That’s not necessarily the case, and isn’t something you should go into the visit process expecting to make your decision. There is a lot more to finding the right school for you than that kind of epiphany, and you should allow yourself to feel great about your eventual decision whether you feel it or not.

Come prepared and leave knowing.

Regardless of what kind of visit experience you set up, come to the visit with questions you want answered about the most important things to you. That can be about anything from the curriculum to dorms to the skateboard policy on the quad, but it will be a lot easier to make sure you get all the info you need if you know what you’re looking for ahead of time.

On the flip side, write down the pros and cons of your visit experience as soon as it’s over. Things will get mixed up as time goes by and you visit more schools, so it’s a huge help to have written down what you were thinking and feeling as you were on campus.