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Articles / Applying to College / Should I stay overnight as part of my college visits?

Feb. 10, 2002

Should I stay overnight as part of my college visits?

Question: Should I stay overnight as part of my visits to candidate colleges?

That's a great idea. Believe it or not, some high-school seniors enroll at colleges whose grounds they've never seen. I think that's risky business.


We all have the ability to react to places we visit at the "gut" level. That's especially important when you go to visit your candidate schools. Before you go for a visit, you'll probably read about the schools in their standard marketing materials--viewbooks, course catalogs, and specialty publications.

These are a good way to see, through pictures and words, what the schools are like. But, as the song title says, there ain't nothin' like the real thing.

As far as overnight stays are concerned, most colleges and universities have hosting programs where a student (frequently a freshman or sophomore) is your host for a day and night. You take your sleeping bag and toothbrush and stay in your host's room overnight.

Overnight stays have a number of advantages over day visits. First of all, you'll get to experience dorm life for a night. Depending on the character of the school you're visiting, you might discover that nights are dead, or at least boring. On the other hand, you may find yourself in the middle of a long-term party, with all the usual wild behavior and loud noises. Most likely, though, it will probably be somewhere in between.

I'm not making any judgments about noisy or sleepy campuses. I'm just emphasizing the point that colleges and universities all have their own personalities. It's up to you to decide whether or not the school you're visiting "feels" good to you. Remember, you'll be spending the better part of four years of your life at college. That's a long time to be somewhere that bores you.

The overnight stay is one of the best ways I know to find out what a college is like. Take advantage of the opportunity to do so.

Further Reading:

Visiting College Campuses (5th Edition) by Janet Spencer, Sandra Maleson, et al. Combines both general information on how to make the most of college visits as well as specific information on hundreds of the most frequently visited campuses. Check our review.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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