Which Colleges Should I Tour? A Comprehensive Guide

Padya Paramita

Which Colleges Should I Tour? A Comprehensive Guide 

If you’re in or approaching your junior year of high school, you’re probably aware that this is an important time for taking the next steps towards your college applications. Alongside preparing for the SAT and solidifying leadership positions, 11th grade is also ideal for thinking about the question, “which colleges should I tour?” This component might seem random, but many colleges actually track your demonstrated interest based on whether you’ve visited on not. Plus, you might encounter your dream school on a tour - students have often cited the campus visit as the main reason they fell in love with a college.

Even though it might seem overwhelming with so many schools you can possibly visit, when planning your trips, you need to be organized. To help you answer “which colleges should I tour,” I’ve outlined a list of institutions that track your visits, how to make the most out of your tours, when you should be going, some questions to ask on your tour, alongside resources to take advantage of if tours aren’t feasible for you. 

Colleges That Track Your Demonstrated Interest

Before you start making a checklist to go out of your way and plan to visit every college on your list, it’s good to know who is tracking your visits when asking “which colleges should I tour?” Not all universities take your visit into account, particularly schools like the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford, that already attract a lot of tourists. So, if you’re short on time, it’s best to plan for schools that do monitor your commitment based on the steps you’ve taken. 

Check out the following tables featuring national universities and liberal arts colleges you should have on your radar because of demonstrated interest when planning “which colleges should I tour.” I’ve also included their location so that you can visit multiple nearby colleges when you’re in a certain area.

National Universities

School Location
Boston University Boston, MA
Brandeis University Waltham, MA
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA
Georgia Tech Atlanta, GA
Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
New York University New York, NY
Northwestern University Evanston, IL
Northeastern University Boston, MA
Rice University Houston, TX
Rensselaer Polytechnic University Troy, NY
Tufts University Medford, MA
Tulane University New Orleans, LA
University of Florida Gainesville, FL
University of Miami Miami, FL
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI
University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
University of Rochester Rochester, NY
Villanova University Villanova, PA
Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO

Liberal Arts Colleges

School Location
Barnard College New York, NY
Bates College Lewiston, ME
Colby College Watertown, ME
College of the Holy Cross Worcester, MA
Colorado College Colorado Springs, CO
Connecticut College New London, CT
Dickinson College Carlisle, PA
Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA
Gettysburg College Gettysburg, PA
Grinnell College Grinnell, IO
Hamilton College Clinton, NY
Haverford College Haverford, PA
Kenyon College Gambier, OH
Lafayette College Easton, PA
Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
Mount Holyoke College South Hadley, MA
Oberlin College Oberlin, OH
Occidental College Los Angeles, CA
Pitzer College Claremont, CA
Sewanee University of the South Sewanee, TN
Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, NY
Soka University of America Allso Viejo, CA
Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
Trinity College Hartford, CT
Union College Schenectady, NY
University of Richmond Richmond, VA
Washington and Lee University Lexington City, VA
Wellesley College Wellesley, MA
Whitman College Walla Walla, WA

Of course, it can definitely help to visit any college if you’re considering putting it on your list, but if you’ve got your heart particularly set on any of the above schools, you should be making all the more effort to let the admissions office know that you’re interested by organizing a visit if possible.

When to Visit and How to Make Your Campus Tours Count

Ideally, you should aim to embark on your campus tours during spring break of junior year. So, to make sure you’re ready when the time comes, you need to have a preliminary list of colleges so that you can decide which ones you will check off when you’re on the east coast, for example. To stay organized, start planning during winter break in order to get the transportation, housing (if you’re staying overnight), and the questions you’ll ask all ready to go.

Admissions officers at the colleges that track demonstrated interest have a variety of methods they use to evaluate students on their visits. So, when you think about “which colleges should I tour?” you must also explore the options available for prospective students. Most schools arrange information sessions for future applicants. Institutions sometimes offer overnight visits, the opportunity to attend a class, talk to a professor, eat lunch with a current student, or sessions for applicants interested in particular majors. 

Prospective Student Events: Examples

For example, you might be considering applying to Northwestern. On your visit to the Evanston campus, you might have opportunities to attend an information session, do a campus tour, and attend a school-specific seminar for music or business. You might also be registered for Purple Preview, which allows you to shadow a student. Or, you could arrange to stay overnight. All of these efforts are recognized by the university as demonstration of interest in the college and add a small boost to your application.

Go through schools’ websites and check out the opportunities available during the time of your visit. If it’s an organized event or open house such as Discover Wellesley or Discover Middlebury Weekend, you’ll have plenty of chances to interact with current students and meet with different clubs and organizations. If your visit is more spontaneous, you can still talk to admissions office representatives and get a sense of what life is like at the school, as well as find out when the next information session is. 

Questions to Ask on Your Campus Tour

As you make a list of “which colleges should I tour?” you might also be wondering what questions to ask in order to make the most of your visit. It helps to get a sense of the academic, social, and extracurricular offerings at the school. Avoid asking for information that is easily available on the college website. You also must remember that most of the time, your tour guides are current students - so asking them for their perspective can help you get a sense of what your life might be like in a couple of years!

Use the questions below to think about what matters to you in your college experience and decide which ones you should ask:


  • Why did you choose major X?
  • Who is your favorite professor and why?
  • What is it like to transition from high school to this college?
  • How accessible are professors typically?
  • Generally, do you feel that professors are engaged in their students’ education? Can you tell me how one of your professors has supported you or someone you know?
  • How hard do you have to work to get good grades?
  • What was the most impactful or meaningful course (academically or personally) that you have taken so far?


  • What is the most impactful or meaningful extracurricular activity that you have been a part of?
  • How involved are students in extracurriculars?
  • Which activities are most popular?
  • What’s the Greek life like, and how do students feel about it?
  • How active is the student body in terms of sports?
  • How popular are campus sporting events amongst students?
  • Are any art or music practice spaces available to non-majors?

Social Life

  • What is your typical Tuesday like?
  • What is your typical Friday night like? 
  • Why did you choose this college?
  • How would you summarize the campus culture?
  • What are the best reasons to go to this college?
  • What do you do in your free time? Over the weekends?
  • What do you love about this college?
  • What is it like to live in this city/town?


  • What has the school done to help you grow?
  • How does the university foster/encourage multiculturalism in daily life?
  • In what ways does the university support students with technology needs (tech support, access, discounted or free software, etc)?
  • In what ways does the university support students in need of educational support (disability services, writing centers, study groups, freshman interest groups/first year support, etc)?
  • What does the college do to ensure campus safety in general? What about in the event of an emergency?
  • How large is the campus security force? Does it patrol the campus regularly?
  • What services does the health center offer?

Residential Life

  • What’s the residential life vibe?
  • How are residence halls secured?
  • How many dorms are there, and how do they differ?
  • Are the dorms spread through the campus or clustered in one area?
  • What are the off-campus living options, and what do they typically cost?

Resources If You Can’t Attend A Tour

If your dream school isn’t close to you, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. Lots of students who live far away or have conflicting schedules still get into these colleges both based on the rest of their application and a demonstration of interest in other ways. 

You can inquire whether there is an information session in your local area - often top universities will have a table at college fairs. So, if there’s one near you, definitely check it out, talk to the representatives, and ask them questions about the application process. You can also arrange for an alumni interview if there are alums in your area. Many schools offer virtual college tours using websites such as YouVisit. If you’re unable to travel somewhere, using this website is an effective way of learning more about the different offerings, seeing what the campus is like, and taking a look at the various buildings. Definitely try an online visit! 

As you plan your campus visits, you must think strategically. If you’re limited in deciding “which colleges I should tour,” prioritize institutions that will take visits into account when it comes to making your application decision. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with visiting other schools on your list that don’t assess demonstrated interest, because physically being on a campus and talking to students can make a significant difference in your decision to attend. Happy visiting!

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