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When Should You Start College Visits?

As a senior, I find myself immersed in a whirlwind of schoolwork, sports, and extracurricular commitments. On top of this time-consuming routine, I am still confronted with the formidable task of crafting multiple college essays and diligently filling out application forms. It’s a shared experience for many seniors during the fall semester—a period where we’re truly swamped.

What’s particularly challenging is that in addition to these responsibilities, a significant chunk of my time is dedicated to both online and in-person college visits, a pursuit shared by many of my peers. It’s a crucial part of our journey towards higher education.

In retrospect, I realize that I would have been much less stressed and far more prepared if I had engaged in more comprehensive college research and visits during my sophomore and junior years.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended evening presentations hosted by colleges that align with my own interests. These events have taken place in various locations, from local libraries to hotels. During these sessions, admissions officers often inquire about the grade levels of attendees, and it’s been surprising to note that roughly 50% of the audience comprises sophomores and juniors. Looking back, I see the wisdom in their early involvement in the college exploration process.

When you’re a sophomore or junior, you’re still in the process of discovering which colleges align with your interests. You might have a preliminary list that could include institutions like UC Santa Cruz, SF State, or even aspirational schools like Yale. The good news is that there’s an abundance of resources available for you to learn about these institutions well in advance.

Virtually every college offers online tours and information sessions, which are especially abundant in the fall, but are also available year-round. Moreover, numerous colleges organize in-person campus tours that are open to high school students and many schools will even  dispatch representatives to various regions, including the Bay Area. Some may present at Tech events, while others opt for public venues such as hotels. I would add that these are almost always free and might just be a 20-minute online session that could be truly informative. 

Even if you ultimately decide not to apply to a particular school, these visits can be incredibly enlightening. They provide valuable insights into the factors that will shape your college experience, such as campus size, location, culture, and more.

No matter how busy you may feel at the moment, I can assure you that the demands of senior year in the fall are even more intense. Therefore, any efforts you invest now in researching and visiting colleges will undoubtedly be beneficial in your future college journey.

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