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Choosing a College | College Tours | June 2012

7 Tips to Avoid Dangerous College Visits

By Taylor Cotter | For StudentAdvisor.com

Susquehanna University recently released a study reporting that 16 percent of teens who had been on overnight college visits reported drinking alcohol during the visit. About half of these teens indicated that this was the first time they drank alcohol. Teens also reported engaging in sex or other intimate sexual behavior (17 percent), using drugs other than alcohol (5 percent) or driving while impaired (2 percent) during their overnight college visit.

Here at StudentAdvisor, it hit home as well. Doug (names have been changed to protect identities), a friend and colleague, shared his personal story about how his college visit that turned bad. Doug’s parents drove him down to his freshman orientation and went to a party on campus and drank for the first time. When Doug returned to the orientation dorm, he fell down a flight of stairs and was found inebriated by campus police. Campus police then brought him to the hotel where his parents were staying nearby at 3 a.m. The next day Dough and his parents learned he lost his scholarship to attend the school that fall.

The kicker? The party was hosted by Doug’s brother, a resident assistant at the college, working for the school over the summer. Doug’s brother was also fired as an R. A. for the upcoming school year. Needless to say, the drive home with his parents, and subsequent months, was not fun.

Overnight college visits are a great part of choosing which college is best for you and for starting the year off on the right foot. However, it has become more and more common for students to get caught violating university policy on campuses, losing scholarships, or getting their acceptances rescinded. So to avoid what happened to our friend Doug, before heading out on your overnight college visits, make sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • 1.) Only stay overnight with a host you know well
    Have a sibling, cousin, or close friend who wants you to come spend the night with them at school? Great! Have a friend you met once at camp, a Twitter follower, or a friend of a friend who’s invited you to stay in his or her dorm? Pass. Overnight college visits are great but not worth it if your host isn’t looking out for you. Make sure you only visit people that you, and your parents, trust. I don’t have any older siblings, so I made most of my college visits visiting older sisters of close friends.

  • 2.) Know What the Consequences Are
    If you’re staying overnight and choose to go to a party, drink, or participate in any other risky behavior, know what the consequences are. Chances are that if you’ve already been accepted to a school and they find you getting in trouble, your acceptance will be rescinded. Is this really worth it? Remember this too when you go for your freshman orientation overnight, and your first few weeks of school.
  • "16% of teens who had been on overnight college visits reported drinking alcohol during the visit."


  • 3.) Make Sure You Know Your Way Around
    If you head out to a party or event, there’s a good chance that you could lose your friends or host. Make sure you have everyone’s phone numbers and a campus map to find your way back to where you’re staying. Check out if the school has a Foursquare profile or other virtual maps available.

  • 4.) Go on the “official tour” or Informational Session
    Showing your “direct intent” to attend the school is one of the most influential things you can do to get accepted. Plus - you promised your parents that you would actually learn something on your college visit. Though your friend might be able to show you the actual hot spots on campus, don’t skip the sales pitch from the school. Sure, you might get a more “honest” tour from your friend, but if you have a question about a specific major, admissions numbers, or financial aid, the university tour guide will have the most updated and accurate information.
  • "17% of teens also reported engaging in sex or other intimate sexual behavior"


  • 5.) Decide About Parties Ahead of Time
    Here’s a secret: most colleges have parties on the weekends. Think about if you want to go to a party ahead of time. Talk to your host a few days in advance and see what he or she plans to do this weekend. If it’s something you don’t feel comfortable with, find an alternative plan. There is nothing worse than realizing you’re far from home and you’re doing something you don’t want to be doing. Know in advance!
  • 6.) Explore the City and Under 21 Options
    If your host is taking suggestions on what to do on your visit, try suggesting some options that are under-21 friendly. After all, if you go to school here, you’ll likely be under 21 for quite some time. Look into the school’s social media profiles and activities or try some tourism websites or guidebooks to find something different and exciting – my under 21 adventures often consisted of going to improv comedy shows and lots of dessert restaurants.
  • "Like a bad date – if something goes wrong and you’re not having fun, have a backup friend you can call."


  • 7.) Have a Friend to Call in a Bad Situation
    Like a bad date – if something goes wrong and you’re not having fun, have a backup friend (or wing man) you can call. Having a Plan B is always a good idea. Give them a heads up that you might be calling them for help. If the situation calls for it, make sure to call you parents or the police – have the campus police number!