College visit after freshman year

Is it too early to do a college visit after freshman year? D25 hasn’t really narrowed down what she wants to study in college and hasn’t tested at all yet. We are going to VT by way of Boston this summer and didn’t know if there were any schools we should visit.

Any schools we should definitely check out that are: LGBTQ friendly, small to medium, possibly offer majors in zoology, writing, or graphic design for a 4.0 student at a competitive public high school? :rofl:


We took the kids to visit Us when we were going to any areas where they had Us. It was pretty casual when they were younger—looked around the campus, maybe grab a meal where students were, if there was parking, walk around campus sone (especially libraries, our kids favorite).


It is too early. 1) They shouldn’t be thinking college at this point – can increase stress, and 2) they won’t know what they want yet – so they won’t look at a college through the lens of whether it is a good fit.


In my experience, yes. Especially because of what you mentioned in the second sentence.

We did the same. But honestly, when I look back, I don’t think it helped much. D wasn’t sure back then what her interests were. It was too early to determine fit, suitability of program, opportunities available for her area of interest, etc. When she finally researched and made a shortlist towards the end of her junior year based on colleges that matched her criteria, the list was quite different.

Too early for college visits, unless you are literally in the location anyway and just go for a walk on campus. I don’t think it is at all worth it to go out of your way, even a little, to visit colleges with a kid that young. Many great things to see in Vermont! Enjoy!

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I would say it’s too early – I did some visits in the summer after 8th, not 9th, however (we were in the area) – and frankly I had almost no remembrance of the colleges when it came time to apply :rofl:

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I don’t think it’s too early, though I wouldn’t take away from some other part of the vacation to do it.

At this age, narrowing down schools doesn’t matter at all. These visits are only to get a feel of whether your child might like big, small, rural, urban, etc. Getting some exposure now when the stakes are low can help them create a list in a couple of years.

The added bonus is that your student can have some demonstrated interest in the books in the event that s/he decides to apply to any of the visited schools who track it. Even if you are not taking an official tour, you can register at the admissions office.

We were grateful to have made some fun visits when my kids were younger because opportunities were curtailed so much during Covid.


I don’t think it’s too early if she’s interested, but I would wait for the fall semester when more students are around. I wouldn’t look seriously but I might look at different types (large public university, small liberal arts college) to have a general idea. I honestly could have used that my freshman year as it might have motivated me more (I’m a junior now).

It depends on the kid. If they want to then it is not too early.

We sometimes visited if we were in the area of the country for something else. Not official tours in middle school, but they were aware we are in this city with these colleges and may walk or drive by campus. D21 went on several tours with S19 tagging along early on. Sometimes she hung out in the student union studying and honestly got a better vibe for things than we did on the tour.

We never forced tours but made them available. There were also museums or events they wanted to go to that were on college campuses over the years. Early on we went to see Big Al in Wyoming at the request of the seven year old version of S19 - great museum! Allosaurus Exhibit | Geological Museum | University of Wyoming


Since you are specifically talking about Vermont, I’ll chime in. I wouldn’t make it a “college visit”, but if you are in Burlington, I’d take a walk through the campus of UVM and Champlain. Just to get a feel of a big school (but not as big as a lot of state schools) and a small school that are part of a great college town. I wouldn’t do a tour or get into any of the academics, but just “see” what a college (two different colleges) looks like.

One of the good things about Covid was that college websites became much more robust. If she is interested after the walk-through, she can spend time (at some point in the future) looking online to learn more.

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Yes, too early. But if you happen to be near a school that has something of interest on campus – art museum, concert, etc. - it can be a good reason to check out that campus. Or just to drive through to see for the heck of it. But to consider for herself? Not yet!

It may help to equate taking your just finished 5th grader to look at high schools. She might think it’s cool to see the football stadium or science labs, but the criteria she’d likely apply to what would make her happy are almost certain to change.

In our case, it helped to get an idea of what different types of campuses were like—rural was WAY more rural than any of us were familiar with, snow fences in area near campus was a new experience for us living in warm climate, urban campus with buildings scattered around the city was yet a different environment. We also visited a few Us nearer and in cities which had dorms and more of a college feel. All of these were helpful to us all so we could consider pros and cons of different settings.


As others have said, it depends on the kid. My son was educated overseas and so, to give him a general idea what a US college is, we sent him to a couple of university sports camps his freshman and sophomore summers. No academic focus at all, but he stayed in the dorms, ate in the dining halls, wandered around the campuses, etc. I think it was helpful in a backwards sort of way. The schools he spent time at were all big - Cornell, UC Berkeley and UCLA - and when he started thinking about colleges his junior year, he realized he preferred Cornell’s rural atmosphere but generally wanted a much smaller school. That really helped us narrow down his focus to LACs.

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I’m also in the it “depends” camp. I think getting an overall feel for big/little, urban/rural can be helpful.

I’d visit UVM while in VT and contrast it with a school like Tufts in Boston.

FWIW, we did start visits between sophomore and junior year. We had friends with older kids who suggested doing that and then sending her to a summer program at her top choice between junior and senior year. It really helped her process and took some stress off doing the visits early. We also did make some repeat visits as she approached senior year.

Definitely not too early!! Absolutely definitely not.

We live in a college town (big state flagship) and our local university has a program called “First Look” especially set up for middle school students so they can get an idea of what college is like. My D22’s middle school class did that program and it was really helpful for her just to get an idea of what everything was about (dorms, cafeteria, etc).

We started visiting colleges (other than our local one) around middle school for my younger kid (went on some official organized tours with older sibling) and we walked around a lot of campuses, too.

Other things I would encourage are the Splash! programs at various colleges across the country and a summer camp program for high schoolers on a college campus. I think the camp is super helpful if you can swing it. We did both a free day camp at our local university and a paid weeklong overnight camp in one of her areas of interest. The overnight camp was incredibly helpful, but the free day camp was also good (and free!).

For most kids, it’s too early. If your kid is super interested, then I’d say do a casual visit if you’re in the area. I wouldn’t do a formal tour and I wouldn’t go out of your way. That said, college campuses are fun places to go for a walk and they often have concerts and events and that are open to the public, that would make a good opportunity to go on campus.

That said, there is a program in our area for low income, high achieving kids (mostly Latino in our area) in middle and high school. They do frequent college visits, even with the middle schoolers. But these kids, would be the first people in their families to attend college. They want to motivate these kids and let them know what opportunities are available. They also have workshops that teach the students how to apply for scholarships and financial aid, how to apply, how to write a good essay, etc. But again, these are kids whose parents probably have little to no knowledge about how the college process works.

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I think in these cases it certainly makes sense to get early exposure. In cases where there is a college frenzy in the school and in the friend group, and in family circles etc, early exposure only raises stress.


It was absolutely super helpful to our kids and did not raise stress. It helped to inform them about different types of schools (big publics, small schools, art schools) and it was super helpful to have those visits in the bag when COVID came along and everything went online. So much more helpful to be able to walk around a campus and get a real feel for it.

I would just ask her if she’s interested in looking at any of the colleges in Boston or Vermont or elsewhere on your way and follow her lead. If she is not interested not reason to push it but if she says, “sure why not” i would take her up on that.

We had done at least 4 official tours by 9th grade and my daughter had done two with her middle/high school. Some we did on the way to somewhere else like SCAD on the way to Orlando and some we made a special visit to go see. These are not including the walking around campuses or drive bys or self guided tours. I found them useful and when D22 was narrowing down her list in fall of last year I think it was helpful to her to have seen those schools. Some were eliminated and some stayed on her final list.


Exactly! It really depends on the kid and their situation. For these low income kids, there isn’t a lot of talk about college at home. For kids who are middle class and above with college educated parents, there is likely more talk about college and the future.

Maybe it wasn’t a source of stress for your kids, but for some kids it would be. I think if the kid is interested a casual visit is fine. But, parents shouldn’t push it. Let the kid lead.

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This is a rising high school sophomore so I really don’t think it’s too early to familiarize themselves with a college campus. If they don’t want to do a full on tour that’s okay, but I think those are definitely useful at this age, too. I wouldn’t be making a list of colleges to apply to yet, but visits, whether formal or informal, are great, IMO.

@groundhog74 if your daughter is adamantly opposed to visiting a college I wouldn’t push it, but if it works with your vacation plans I would at least walk around a campus or two if she’s even halfway interested or says she doesn’t care.