College Open Houses or Regular Visits?

When doing college research, visiting a college is the best way to get a real feel for the campus. If you’re like many students, you’ll only have one opportunity to visit a college campus, especially if it is a college far away from your home. However, what is the best way to visit a college campus? Attend an open house or visit on a regular day? Open houses are typically big events and only happen on select days during the year. Regular visits, on the other hand, can happen almost any other time. Each option has advantages and disadvantages. So, what option is best for you?

College Open Houses

Open houses will have different names depending on the colleges you are considering. Some will simply be called open houses, while others will be “spotlights,” “future student days,” and other cutesy names related to the college name or mascot. An open house will feel like the college is “rolling out the red carpet” for prospective students and their families. The campus and everyone associated with the college will be at their very best. The whole idea behind an open house is to try and persuade prospective students that the college is the best place for them. Open houses will look a little different at each college, but they will typically have similar features. You should expect a campus tour and opportunities to hear from professors, staff, and current. You might also get the opportunity to attend information sessions on campus resources, student activities, and academic programs.

If you are planning on attending a college open house, here are some things to consider:

  • The campus will be well manicured. The lawns will be freshly mowed and gardens will look fresh and clean. The physical campus will look amazing.
  • Parking may be easy. Colleges are notorious for not having enough parking. However, on an open house day, you probably won’t have any trouble finding a place to park your car.
  • Many people on campus will be welcoming and available to answer your questions. This includes professors and staff who can answer questions from prospective students, such as admission counselors, financial aid officers, and academic advisors.
  • Current students will play a role in the open house. However, the students selected to speak at the event will probably be hand selected by the people in charge, and possibly prepped on how to answer certain questions. Students who typically participate in events like this are campus leaders and students who love the college. Current students who are quiet or not as happy at the college will not be involved in the event.
  • The food you’ll receive during open houses will be great! The menu for the day may be selected to show off the best options or student favorites.
  • There will be many prospective students on campus during an open house. It is a great opportunity for you to meet future classmates. This is an excellent chance for students who may not know anyone at the college to make connections with other students. The prospective students you meet at an open house may turn into future friends or your roommate.
  • A lot of information will be jammed into the day. The day will be carefully designed, and sometimes scripted, to ensure you learn and see most everything you need to know and want to see.

Regular Visit or Individual College Visits

Regular visit days or individual visits happen on days that are convenient for you. Regular  visits will typically include a brief information session from an admission officer and a campus tour. You may also have the opportunity to add on other features to your visit, such as sitting in on a class, meeting with a coach, or spending the night in the residence hall. The college will do their best to show off the best of the college campus, but some things will be out of their control during regular visit days. Here are some things to consider if you’re planning on scheduling a visit on a regular day on campus:

  • Colleges do not close during the year. Therefore, construction, painting or lawn care may happen during your visit.
  • Parking might be an issue. Many colleges will have specific parking spots for visitors, but if those spots are taken, you might be out of luck. Unfortunately there are many colleges with more students and staff than parking spots.
  • Professors may not be available to speak to you during your visit. If you’re visiting on a regular school day you will have to understand professors will be teaching classes and attending to their other duties. They may be unavailable to you and other prospective students during your visit.
  • Meals in the dining hall will be the regular food current students eat. There won’t be any special meals scheduled. You’ll get to taste the food you’ll be eating as a student.
  • You may be able to sit in on real classes during a regular visit. The class won’t be scripted, but you’ll see real classroom discussion and lectures.
  • Outside of the information session and the campus tour, the rest of the visit will not be scripted. You will get to blend in on campus and be just another student.

Open houses and regular visits have a different feel and offer different things. Open houses will give you access to everything you need and want while you are on campus. However, it will be scripted and designed to show off the best aspects of the college. Regular visit days will give you a real look at the college. This means you’ll see the blemishes on the college campus and you may not be given access to the people and places you may want to see. Open houses are large and will allow shy students to stay quiet and blend in with the crowd. Regular visit days, however, will vary in size. Some colleges may see 20 students visiting in a day and at other colleges you may be the only student visiting. These smaller visits are a great opportunity to get one-on-one time with an admission officer to discuss admission questions, but may also be uncomfortable for someone who is shy.

College visits are a must when you’re researching colleges. However, how you visit a college is up to you. Open houses and regular visits have their own advantages and disadvantages. You will have to determine what is most important to you: an all access, but scripted visit, or a real day as a student on the college campus. Both options are great and will give you the opportunity to learn more about the college.

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