The Importance of Campus Visits

Portrait of a smiling young black female student on colledge campus in the fall

A sense of belonging can play a large role in student college choice. Students want to attend schools that demonstrate a commitment to admitting and financially supporting them. One such way for students to identify this belonging and commitment is through visits to college campuses prior to enrolling.

Campus visits often take a variety of forms. Students may visit a college campus as a part of an educational field trip, participate in a more traditional college visit and tour, or participate in other ways. Research has repeatedly shown that campus visits impact students’ college choice and is the among the most important factors in that choice. A 2022 study indicates that both educational campus field trips and traditional visits had an association with postsecondary enrollment rates. Traditional campus visits were found to have a stronger impact than other visits. Research has also identified that having staff, faculty and current students available to prospective students during visits is important.

Campus visits offer students the opportunity to learn about their place in a campus environment.

They allow students to view facilities, particularly those for their areas of interest, which have been identified as another of the most important factors to a student’s college choice. Campus visits also enable students to get a sense of life on campus, with factors such as campus aesthetics and a general feeling of comfort on the campus being noteworthy to students. Other factors relevant to the visit, such as weather and construction projects, have been found to matter as well.

To ensure successful campus visits, higher education institutions can do a few things:

Focus on the visitor experience.

Issues with scheduling, parking, reception, and follow‐up can all present barriers to students enjoying their visit and set the lens through which students will see campus. A great campus tour can be negated entirely by a hassle to park or find the front entrance.

Intentionality with visits is also important.

Making visits start at an attractive building that serves as the symbolic centerpiece of the school and ensuring this building has a welcoming and comfortable reception area, with light refreshments for visitors, demonstrates early on the welcoming and caring nature of the school and gives students a sense of belonging. Offering opportunities to ask questions and delve into personal interests is also important. Campus visits can help students get a good understanding of what a college can be to them.

Offer the opportunity to visit more than once.

Often, one visit is not enough for students to be sufficiently familiar with a campus to make a fully formed opinion of a school. Giving students the opportunity to make the most of their visit with time for personalized activities and following up with students on opportunities for further learning opportunities related to their major, sports or other activities is a good way to showcase an understanding of students as individuals. Additionally, research shows that getting students interested in college early on in their education is important to their decision to attend college. Offering field trips, workshops and other visits to middle school and early high school students can help those students develop their post-secondary aspirations.

In conclusion, campus visits are a low-cost way for higher education institutions to connect with prospective students and show off their campus as an attractive, safe, and welcoming place to pursue a post-secondary education. It is also an opportunity to connect prospective students with the people and resources to ensure a smooth transition into post-secondary life. Every detail counts to students and their families; recognizing this fact is a crucial first step to making campus visits count.

Anthony Schuette is a Research Specialist at Trellis. He received his B.S. in Economics from the University of St. Thomas and later received his M.S. in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota. Before working at Trellis, Anthony worked as a researcher for the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.