Committing to a sight unseen school - you too?

Just wondering - how many of us are committing to a school only visited/assessed virtually/online?
Or… why would you NEVER commit to a school sight unseen?


This was the norm “back in the day”. Travel was expensive- parents weren’t able to take time off from work, there was no internet.

My spouse showed up at a campus- sight unseen- with a trunk and a duffle bag after taking three different greyhound buses to get to college. And he was not the only one in his dorm who had never traveled that far from home!


My kid has never set foot on the campus where she will be attending next fall. She felt that there were enough opportunities on line - official videos, student vlogs and blogs, Zoom classes, connecting with current students through admissions, etc. that she had a clear idea of what her experience would be like. She’s excited to see it for the first time when she moves in.


I posted about how to choose a college a child has never visited and have had many helpful resposnes. We live rural and remote and my child was lucky to get many great offers this year. She has not visited any of the schools in person. It has been a hard choice, thay still is not made yet.


I never visited the school I got my undergrad degree from. Same with my wife and son. (Daughter had visited her school, but it was local so easy to visit.) I think visits are over-rated. Most kids adjust pretty well to whatever situation they’re put in.


I never had the opportunity to visit my chosen college. Attending Cornell was one of the best decisions I ever made.

For the record, I had never visited my current home before allowing my husband to accept a job here. No regrets.

1 Like

International student gang. Most of us are making decisions without really seeing the college


I went to Syracuse in 1986 - and I went because they were known for broadcasting. It was well known that their insanely popular basketball team, back in the days of Pearl Washington, was the biggest recruiting tool that brought applicants in.

We got brochures in the mail. We did not have email, internet access, zoom or anything. There was no US News, Niche, Reddit, or anything else.

You saw whatever pics they put in the brochure.

Yes, it’s better to step on campus - I wish I had that chance back then. But today, you can almost envision being there - from pics of campus to classrooms, to dorm rooms - not to mention the continual student review.

You have enough info to at least make a sensible decision - far different than what your predecessors had to do.


My husband went off to college sight unseen (and he only lived 30 minutes away, so a visit would have been easy). It was also the only school he applied to. No internet back then to fuel anxieties that lead to 20 applications. I applied to mostly out of state colleges. My family NEVER would have entertained the possibility of flying all over the country to visit colleges. We did, however, visit the 2 in-state colleges I applied to, and I ended up at one of those. Funny that the one I ended up at, which I toured on a gorgeous spring day, ended up being one of the coldest, snowiest, blizzardy places in the winter - I almost didn’t come back after Christmas break freshman year (no internet, no idea about the harsh winters. I didn’t even have boots!) I’m glad I stayed because I met my husband later that year!

With my D, we were able to take official tours at all but 2. She actually hated the official tours (according to her, they talk about the same scripted, generic topics on every tour). The college she chose didn’t send out decisions until the end of Feb. It was one of the ones we hadn’t visited and then we had a hard time finding free time to get up there (3 hours from home but spring is her busy season with her sport). She was ready to commit, having just done some virtual visits & admissions sessions, but thankfully we found a day during the week to run up, with literally less than 2 weeks to decision day. A high school alum met us and gave us an amazing unofficial tour that sealed the deal.

I do ultimately think that visits are important to get an overall campus vibe but just being there for several hours on any given day doesn’t really give a true sense of what real life will be like once they are a student.

1 Like

Same! I never saw our home until a few days before we moved in.

My D attended college with quite a few kids who never set foot on campus until move in day. Quite a few of those kids were international. She attended school in Maine and that’s a bit of schelp. Those kids didn’t mind not visiting first. There are so many ways now to “see” colleges without visiting.

1 Like

Traveling to my college beforehand would be too taxing for my family - not only would we have to pay travel costs, but we’d also have to pay for somewhere to stay nearby and try to keep a rowdy toddler reined in the entire time. By the time I knew what colleges I got into, I was neck-deep studying for AP tests (still am haha) and I didn’t really think I had time to take a leisure trip anyways. We simply don’t have the money or the energy.

For us, seeing the college in-person before committing was never going to be a valid option, even before the pandemic.


It’s funny…I went to a prep school where my classmates went to visit colleges in the mid 1980s, because their families had money. Mine didn’t, and when I asked my dad, he said “Why would you want to go on a tour when all you would see are a bunch of brick buildings?” He was kind of right and kind of wrong. My only visit was a weekend at Michigan pretty much after I committed.

Fast forward 35 years and we (mostly me) took my daughter to see 14 schools from California to Chicago and Michigan. Turns out she picks the one an hour flight away.

Times have changed, but the norm before was to show up on campus with your stuff. It kind of made the experience more exciting and nervous. But because you’re spending so much money now, people hope their kids love the school.

Just go along for the ride. Might be more fun this way for your child.


Many students today, constrained by money, commute to a nearby less expensive college. Visiting beforehand is obviously possible, but not particularly useful in deciding which college to attend, since the money constraint, not what one sees on a visit, determines the college choice.

1 Like

Just chiming in here. My husband is from a small town in Montana. He got into u Chicago and his parents basically dropped him off site unseen. No virtual visits. Nada. The culture shock was real, but he ended up making lifelong friends. He even stayed in Chicago another 22 years after he graduated and finally convinced me to move back with him.


Iirc, I didn’t visit two of the three colleges I applied to (back in the ‘80s) and set foot on the CMU campus for the first time for freshman orientation.

We stopped at MIT when visiting relatives in Boston and never visited Lehigh.