Are online college search tools impacting the need for college visits?

With summer right around the corner, rising high school seniors have a prime opportunity to visit the different colleges they are considering. But with all the attention focused on the Web these days, do students still see college visits as an important part of their college search?

To find out, Cappex surveyed more than 1,300 high school seniors who had just gone through the college search process. Students were asked about what helped introduce them to college options, what helped them get a feel for colleges and what resources helped them narrow down their choices. They were also asked about the benefits and drawbacks of visiting colleges.

The answers pointed to one thing: college visits are seen as extremely important, and they significantly outweigh online and other resources.

Helping introduce students to college options

Many students may start their college search by visiting nearby colleges and then expand their consideration set by going online. Thus, college visits are reported as the most influential resource in introducing students to colleges and helping them understand more about what attributes appeal to them. The colleges’ own websites are the second most influential resource. Parents are third, closely followed by college search sites.

Getting a feel for colleges

As expected, college visits clearly won out in this area. Far behind are the colleges’ own websites, mail from colleges and college search sites. There appears to be an opportunity to improve the online experience (as well as offline materials) to help students understand what a day on campus is like.

Narrowing down college choices

There are similar trends in this area. Parents also seem to be especially important at this stage, which makes sense, because they are typically footing the bill and, as a trusted resource, should know their student’s personality and aspirations pretty well.

What do students see as the important benefits of a campus visit?

Getting an authentic campus experience is the number one answer. There’s nothing like experiencing a day walking around a campus and nearby town, and maybe even sitting in on a class.

Understanding the size of the campus is next most important. It can really provide a perspective on the differences in scale between a college with 30,000 students and one with 3,000 students.

Surprisingly, checking out the food on campus is deemed more in the area of somewhat important, so food apparently is not a deal breaker for many students.

Campus political views rank last in importance. This could be because those views are difficult to determine from just a day on campus. Additionally, many students may just not be that strongly political at this stage in their lives.

Are there any drawbacks to college visits?

The simple answer provided by 44% of respondents is that college visits are difficult to manage and pay for. In many cases, it is just too much effort for students to see all of the campuses they are considering. Students also indicate that they would like to it to be easier to get a feel for what classes are like when they are visiting.

Even given the drawbacks, when possible, college visits appear to play an extremely important role and continue to help students get an authentic feel of a campus. For students who may not have the resources to visit colleges, there seems to be an opportunity to bring that experience online to the increasingly flexible college search sites.

Where do you find college-bound students online?

On With more than 2 million student users, Cappex is the leading online college search platform for students and an ideal way for colleges to generate qualified inquiries. To learn more about how Cappex helps colleges meet their recruitment goals, click here, or contact Alex Stepien at

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