Well, they don’t call it the “$50 sweatshirt tour” for nothing. Pick an area of the country that they have interest in. If they happened to be located in the same part of the country that would be ideal and you could most definitely knock out 3 schools in a 3-4 day weekend.
We decided to go ahead & play the part, buy the gear (t-shirt, sweatshirt or hat) and imagine herself a part of the student body and living on campus. So for the time we spent on each campus we did just that and I have to say, it was great. We didn’t compare one to another while there, we just soaked it all up.
With each university we spent the first part of our time there exploring the campus for ourselves – we found the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, shopping (like a target 😂 + they all had mini ones), coffee shops, libraries, student health services, hospital, bookstores, hotels (where to stay when we visit) bank, transportation offerings, athletic buildings & stadiums (totally recommend attending something on each campus) etc..
Campus Tour-
Be sure to schedule an official campus tour before you go and plan your trips around that. They took anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours, all were walking tours so wear comfy shoes & if it’s cold bundle up! Ask questions – they are guided by current students and they are a great way to really get the goods. I found it funny how candid & honest they were and we enjoyed it each one. I’d say we lucked out and had some great ones – at Michigan, Lauren, in Madison, Ashley and Emily in Minnesota (we took that tour last October, but only had a couple hours that day – we were there for something else that weekend & snuck it in)
Dinning + Life on Campus-
Make sure to do a little research or ask around when you get there and find out where the students eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and drink 😉hang out & what nightlife looks like. I understand most college kids are not of drinking age when you send them off, but let’s not be naive, it’s a popular pastime and most of us have been there. I wanted to scope it all out & visualize all the places my child could possibly be. I know for sure those stops are not on the tour 😂
The official campus tours are a great way to see the academic buildings, departments of interest, student unions, housing and learn a little history and some fun facts.
I think it’s good to take notice of student body, architecture, vibe & energy. Ask questions about safety protocols, dining plans, freshman dorms, scholarships, student recreation centers, transportation (car, bike or bus) and off campus housing. Ask your kiddo to do research about dorms and what the students have say about where to live. Lily had been following some of their unofficial instagram accounts & facebook groups to gather live, up-to date information on a lot of this. I was impressed, she had quite a bit of knowledge and understanding of the campus before we arrived. Also make sure to look into the greek life, if that’s something they are considering. Definitely do a little drive by and see what percentage of students are involved. Some schools have heavy involvement, but for instance 14% of Wisconsin students are in sororities & fraternities, that’s about only 5,000 kids and based on what we saw and gathered, it’s not necessary to have a social life on campus.
I would recommend looking on their website and searching events happening during your visit. Definitely make time to take in a sporting event, performing arts show, guest speaker or campus event. It gives you a really good look at the since of community, traditions and overall school spirit.
Travel + Stay-
I recommend staying on campus or at least within walking distance. We love the Graduate Hotels and they are popping up all over the country. Love the location, decor, service and knowledge of each school they are located near. It’s a pretty cool concept. There’s no need to rent a car. Just use uber or lyft from airport if you’re flying. If you’re driving to visit schools, once you arrive, park the car and WALK EVERYWHERE. We ended up making multiple one way flights and planed about 36 hours at each school and found its was about perfect to see and what we needed.
My suggestion would be to look at tour times first, activities second and then flights & hotel. I found it easier to create our trip around those two first. Then you could book dining reservations, but to be honest we just went with the flow, explored and ate when something looked good or asked a student for suggestions. let’s be honest, they know and chances are that’s where your kid will be frequenting. It’s also fun to share that you’re visiting the school- students love to talk about their school and what they love. I find Eater (you can search by city) & Tripadvisor to be helpful for recommendations when traveling anywhere. Usually pretty spot on.
I highly recommend touring colleges with your son or daughter if given the chance. This has been one of our favorite things we’ve done together. It was such an incredible time for both of us for so many reasons. It was special. I will never forget these days together. Seeing it through her eyes was really beautiful, not sure how else to describe it. There was so much excitement, mixed with emotions, growth and dreams staring back at me. It’s wild. Gosh, i’m tearing up writing this. I’m just so grateful that our daughter has the opportunity to further her education, enrich her life and live out her dreams, not to mention the amount of pride, love and admiration Steve and I have for her. It’s so crazy to think that our job here is almost done. So bitter sweet.
good luck mama’s ♥️ we got this.

(full highlight here)
Graduate Hotel
Cafe Zola
Black Pearl
Blue Tractor
(full highlight here)
Graduate Hotel
Al’s Breakfast
Black Coffee + Waffle Bar
Crisp + Green
Billy Sushi
Insomnia Cookies
(full highlight here)
Graduate Hotel
Bassett Street Brunch
State Street Brats
The Old Fashion Madison
Taiwan Little Eats
Freshfin Poke
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February 23, 2022



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GO BLUE !…. My parents went there in the 40’s 💙


Just curious any east coast schools in your plans? My kids both graduated from Boston schools so I could be of some help. Enjoy the process

Kate E

I work in college recruiting and this is wonderfully written! I hope every single visiting family takes your advice. It’s absolute recipe for a successful college visit!


So fun to do the tours! Just something to consider…it’s the University of Wisconsin-Madison though… 😉

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