Help with planning campus tours in the Midwest this weekend!

So I’m an upcoming sophomore from the northeast—the reason I’m doing some college visits so early is because one of my parents lives in Pittsburgh but may be moving out soon, so we want to take the luxury of being able to drive a reasonable amount to Midwestern colleges.

Anyways, I’ll likely depart this weekend and spend 3-4 days, but the dates are flexible, as I don’t have anything going on. I’m really not knowledgeable in how college visits work. As for colleges, I’m looking for strong CS departments (as an Asian—totally not stereotypical lmao). I don’t know why I haven’t visited CMU yet—that thought just occurred to me. So far, I’m thinking of Purdue, UIUC, U of Mich, and U Wisconsin. There’s also U Chicago and Northwestern, as well as Wash U St. Louis (closer to UIUC than UWisc), but I’m not sure if I’ll be applying to private elites. But the campuses do look pretty, and this may be my only chance to ever see them (side question—how do colleges know you’ve visited??) Any advice would be appreciated, as to how I should schedule these visits, and how exactly I should go about with my route (some of them are quite far away despite being in the Midwest). The one non-negotiable school to attend is UIUC, which is pretty much my dream school. Everything else is flexible.


Pittsburgh to Univ Michian about 4 hour drive, then U Michigan to Purdue about 4 hours, then 90 min from Purdue to UIUC, then about 4 hours to UW. You could swing back from Madison, WI through Evanston for NW and down to U Chicago on the way home. But that’s a week long trip rather than 3-4 days.

Most big schools have online tour and info sign ups – the tours will be helpful to give you a sense of the campus and student life. Info sessions at public flagships often include a lot of info that is available online so can be skippable though these schools often offer smaller, topic-specific info sessions, such as for College of Engineering or College of Science, which would be more useful for you, particularly if they offer admissions insight.

When we made college visit treks, we tried to keep it to a single school a day, unless they were very close, like consortium schools. The schedule that worked for us was to arrive in town the evening before the visit, stay in the campus hotel at the Union if possible, then attend morning tours and sessions, get lunch, hang around a bit, then drive to next location to be in town and ready for next day’s visit. You might be able to do an early morning Purdue visit and an afternoon UIUC visit, but otherwise, you are looking at a school-a-day. Another consideration – look at the Common Data Set for each school to see if they take into account “demonstrated interest” for admissions – if they don’t consider demonstrated interest, then visiting helps you build your list by either adding or subtracting but is not an admissions factor. So, you may not need to visit all of these if you plan on applying to, say, Michigan, no matter what. Also, research these schools to identify how they handle direct admits for highly competitive majors such as CS, and what percentage of the class is reserved for in-state applicants (UIUC is around 60% instate now, I think, as is UW, though about another 15% at UW is Minnesota reciprocity so only 25% non WI and MN residents). Lastly, check with your parents about finances – many public flagships do not offer a lot of financial aid to out of state students. The upside for a full pay family can be that tuition at UW, Purdue etc. is still less than full pay at a private, so can be a cost-effective option. But for a family eligible for substantial financial aid at private schools, the financial aid award at out of state publics may not suffice (on your list, Michigan is known for better financial for out of state students, but the other publics are not).

We did the trip similar to the other response, arriving the night before, staying over for an early morning tour and then driving to the next stop in the afternoon. My son was also very interested in the college towns, so we made sure to check them out as well. When you sign up online you can do a general information session and a tour. You can also check to see if they offer a specific tour for your major. For example, at UIUC, we did the info session and tour, and then did a tour and question/answer session with the business school. General tours happen almost every day, but the more specific ones are less frequent, so that dictated which schools we visited on which days.
Good luck to you! Make sure to enjoy and have fun and not get stressed out!

Would it be reasonable to visit Northwestern and UChicago in one day? I’m not that interested in them, but I do want to get a feel for the campuses. They do look at demonstrated interest so I don’t want this opportunity to go to waste if I do end up wanting to apply to either of them. I’ll be traveling by car so that would make things easier, I think?

I think I may try to squeeze in Purdue and UIUC in one day, as well.

You may want to see if Case Western can be squeezed in. And definitely CMU! (It’s easy to see Pitt too - they are in the same neighborhood. )

Use Google maps to check the drive time between Northwestern and U Chicago, and check their tour times. It might be possible to do in one day . As for demonstrated interest, you do check in when you arrive for your tour, so that would mark your demonstrated interest(this is for any school). If you get short on time, or bored or tired, you can leave during your tour and no one will know or keep track. U Chicago is supposed to be a beautiful campus, also incredibly hard to get into, and has a unique culture (have you heard “where fun goes to die”), so if it is on your list at all and achieveable for you stats wise, you might want to try to check it out. But if you really aren’t that interested, you can get a feel for the campus itself (or any campus) just by walking or driving around, if you are already in the city. I don’t know that I would invest a few hours of tour time for a school that’s so hard to get into and that you’re not that interested in. There are non visit ways to show demonstrated interest if something changes later.

You have a weeks worth of visits if you want to do a true campus visit with general college tours and then CS specific tours. I can speak for both Michigan and Purdue that they were all day affairs. We did general tours in the morning, ate lunch on campus, and then the department specific tour in the afternoon. No way to do more than 1 tour/day.

If you are just looking for a general quick feel, just walk around. If you want to really demonstrate interest, spend the day at the schools that speak to you the most.

Note, there is a ton of road construction right now in OH, IN, and IL. Travel times for us this summer have been brutal. Also, lots of construction projects on campus at both Purdue and Northwestern.

In terms of construction projects, add UMich to the list. They’re trying to finish the new Student Union, at least one new LSA building, which will house the Opportunity Hub and Internship Program and they’re also renovating an LSA building for more classrooms (Ruthven).

And right next to East Hall, there’s a brand new chic apartment building being finished for this Fall, called Vic Village.

And at some point, there’s going to be a new Football Performance Center building built, but that’s South Campus.

ackk too many places to go to, I need to keep it down to four days max. With no classes going on, I feel like I’ll spend less time at each campus.

I’m assuming your stats will be competitive and costs have been discussed. I would try to get a mix of visits to compare. Large vs small school, urban vs rural, etc. Give yourself at least half a day at each campus. Better to see one less campus than rush.

CMU and Pitt’s campus border each other so that could be one day. Then Michigan and maybe Michigan State. Go to Northwestern and U Chicago (if nothing else to see the architecture and see what a top 5 school looks like). Spend the last day at UIC. That leaves off Purdue and Wisconsin but you don’t want to rush.

Ok so I think we are going to Purdue first, then UIUC, then to Wisconsin. My dad doesn’t like Chicago as a city and hates parking and driving in cities so we can’t go to UChicago or Northwestern even though they’re right next to the route between Wisconsin and UMichigan, our final stop :disappointed: But you can’t have everything.

I like how you think, saving the best for last. :lol:

@sushiritto lmao the campus visits are so scarce there—they fill up too quickly. I don’t think I’ll be able to see either one of Northwestern or UChicago now, because my dad has changed his mind yet again, which is a rip but oh well

You know, the campus visits aren’t “all that” at UMich. Even the admitted student day probably missed 90% of the Ann Arbor campus. We were never shown North (Engineering, SMTD, etc) or South Campus (IM, Big House, Yost, Crisler, etc.). We got to see Central Campus (The Diag, Student Union, Law Quad, UGLI, etc.) and some classrooms in various buildings on Central. But what we did see was obviously impressive to us.

So, if you can’t get a UMich tour, then I’d just drive around to various parts of the campus, get out and walk the South University and State Street shopping areas. If you have specific questions about admissions, campus, financial aid, or whatever, you can always call or just walk into that department.

@sushiritto I’ve already booked!

Just FYI, you could do the Northwestern tour without having to go into Chicago, because you could just stop at Evanston (north of Chicago), where Northwestern is, when you drive from UW to UM. It’s a suburb (no big city driving) and there’s a parking garage where you can park when you’re touring, so he wouldn’t have to find street parking. The campus is beautiful, and you can walk by the lakeside and see some cool architecture.
But if not, the rest of your Midwestern tour sounds great! We did a similar one. Our first stop was Case Western, in Cleveland, which could be worth a look for you.

@Genevieve18 We are only staying three nights, so there is no time for a Northwestern tour. However, we may stop to take a look. We’re also staying in South Bend, so we might take a look at Notre Dame as well. Totally forgot about Notre Dame until today lol