Tips for Touring Out-of-State Colleges

Are you considering out-of-state colleges? Learn how to budget for campus visits and get the most out of your trip, plus alternatives to in-person visits.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on June 14, 2022 · Updated on June 16, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
Share this Article

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Tips for Touring Out-of-State Colleges
Image Credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images


Touring out-of-state colleges can give you valuable information when choosing a college. Learning more about the campus, student life, and the surrounding area helps prospective students compare colleges.

A campus visit can even boost your admission chances. A 2017 study conducted by researchers at Lehigh University and George Washington University showed that students who demonstrated interest in a school by visiting are more likely to receive an acceptance letter.

What's more, according to a 2019 survey of admissions officers, 40% rank a student's demonstrated interest in the school as a moderately or considerably important factor in making admission decisions.

But when should you visit campus? How should you budget for campus visits? And how can you get the most out of your time visiting a campus?

Here are some tips you can use to plan out-of-state college visits.

Planning Your Out-of-State College Visits

The first step in touring out-of-state colleges is deciding which schools to visit and when. There's no ideal number of schools to visit or even a best time to visit. When planning, consider what will give you the best information to help you make your choice.

Some students plan campus visits before admission deadlines. These visits help prospective students decide where to apply. Others prefer to visit colleges after receiving admission offers. If you're deciding between two schools, for example, a campus tour can make your decision easier.

When planning your college visits, consider the number of schools you want to include and the timing. Visiting over summer break might work best for your schedule, but going during the academic year can give you a more insightful view of campus life.

How to Budget for Your College Visits

Visiting out-of-state colleges can be expensive. But keep in mind that the cost to visit campus will likely be similar to the cost of traveling home for breaks. A campus visit can help you decide whether you want to attend an out-of-state school.

Here are some tips on budgeting, which can help you save up for your visits.

Trim the Number of Schools

A cross-country trip to visit schools in California, Texas, New York, and Illinois might be out of the picture. So consider cutting the number of schools you want to visit.

Another way to focus your search is to visit an area with multiple colleges. A long weekend in Boston or four days in Southern California could let you visit several schools.

Plan Ahead

Unfortunately, you cannot use 529 funds or other college savings accounts to visit colleges. But you can budget for campus visits as part of the application process.

Calculate the cost of plane tickets or driving, research places to stay, and start saving sooner rather than later.

Double Up

Are you planning a road trip to visit family over the summer? Consider stopping at a few colleges along the way. Combining campus visits with other travel can make it more affordable.

Even a quick stop on campus can give you valuable information when choosing an out-of-state college. While some prospective students spend days touring campus, others gain a great deal of information from a shorter visit.

Cut Costs

You can make your out-of-state campus visits more affordable by cutting costs. That might mean driving instead of flying or staying at a hotel outside of the city where rates are lower.

Reach out to schools to see whether you can stay in the dorms for free. And consider pairing up with friends interested in the same schools to split costs.

How to Get the Most From Your Visit

You've planned an out-of-state trip to visit colleges. But what should you do during the trip?

Contact the admissions office to let them know about your visit. Consider signing up for a walking tour of campus — undergrads typically lead tours, and they can answer all kinds of questions about life on campus.

If you're interested in a particular department, ask whether you can sit in on a class or meet with current students or professors from that program.

Don't forget to schedule some time to simply experience campus. Visit the student center and the library. Check out the dorms. Get a feel for the campus setting. For example, you might assume you'd prefer an urban campus until you visit a small college town.

In addition to touring campus, learn about the surrounding area. Check out coffee shops on the edge of campus and visit local parks, restaurants, or venues. Try and picture yourself living in the community — is it a good fit?

5 Alternatives to a Campus Visit

Sometimes a campus visit to out-of-state colleges just isn't in the budget. In other cases, you might not have time to travel out of state. What are some alternatives to visiting campus in person?

1  Virtual Tours

Today, most colleges offer virtual campus tours and information sessions for students who can't make in-person visits. Check out the options at your school and consider attending smaller sessions geared toward out-of-state students, transfer students, or students pursuing particular majors.

You can also contact the admissions office to ask about other virtual ways to learn more about the school.

2  Research Campus Life

You can learn about campus life without making an in-person visit. But what are the best ways to research prospective schools? The U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard can give you information on the school type, average cost, acceptance rate, and retention rate.

Schools also provide information on their websites about community and campus life. Check out the campus newspaper online or track down student testimonials. Social media can also give you a different perspective on the school.

3  Meet With an Admissions Counselor

Admissions counselors understand that many students cannot make in-person visits. But you can still demonstrate interest and learn more about the school by talking with an admissions counselor.

College representatives might visit your high school to discuss applying. Some schools can even connect prospective students with admissions counselors or alumni in their local area. Instead of visiting campus, you can learn about the college experience through these meetings.

4  Sit In on a Virtual Class

Many colleges let prospective students sit in on virtual classes. Contact the admissions office and see if you can attend a class. If you're interested in a particular department, reach out and ask about sitting in on a first-year course.

5  Visit Local Colleges

If an out-of-state visit doesn't work, consider visiting local colleges. Checking out small liberal arts colleges, large research universities, and community colleges in your area can help you decide what kind of college experience you want.

The Value of Visiting Colleges

Touring out-of-state colleges can be a great way to learn what kind of college experience you want. It can also help you narrow your choices when applying to schools or choose between two admission offers. And demonstrating interest in the school by visiting or attending virtual tours can even increase your chances of getting an acceptance letter.

Visiting colleges offers multiple benefits, although you can still learn valuable information without leaving your state. So schedule some time to make a virtual or in-person visit to your top college choices.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.