The summer may seem like the perfect time for you and your family to visit college campuses. Unfortunately, many campuses are much less active in summer. Most college students return home, and colleges can very nearly seem abandoned or taken over by high school sports camps.
But with a bit of advance planning, you can maximize your visit and at least have more information than you started with. A summer visit is better than never stepping foot on campus before you apply.
Campus visits are a very important part of the college decision process. They allow you to gain a feel for the campus atmosphere and ask questions you might not be able to answer through an internet search.
Here are six tips for maximizing summer college tours:
1. Take advantage of this “off-season,” and capitalize on one-on-one attention.
While you may not be able to experience the bustling reality of day-to-day college life in July and August, it’s still a chance to narrow down your short list of schools. A slower campus may mean that you receive more one-on-one attention during organized campus tours or that you can spend more time asking questions of admissions staff and professors.
2. Plan ahead.
When it comes to campus tours, planning is critical. No matter what time of year you visit, you should complete an official tour, eat in the dining hall, sit in on a class, speak with an admissions counselor, and talk to professors and students (if summer classes are in session). Investigate which professors you would like to speak with, and then make an appointment with them. Many faculty and staff members vacation during the summer, but by planning ahead, you can meet with key people. Contact the admissions office as well, in order to make an appointment for a college interview and let them get to know you beyond what you write in your college essays.
3. Transform short campus tours into multi-day vacations.
Rather than using a single weekend to hurry over to one of the colleges or universities on your list, make a vacation out of visiting several schools. Try to spend one or two full days at each campus so you can also get a feel for the area around the college.
4. Research, research, research.
Before you visit any school, be sure that you know something about it. You can maximize your time on campus by avoiding asking questions about the information that you can easily find on the internet (like the cost of tuition or what majors the school offers). Use your time on campus to assess how the college suits you on a personal level.
5. Take notes.
Whether you are visiting one campus or multiple campuses this summer, take notes about your experience. Take photos or record your impressions on your phone. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What do you want to know more about? Visits can easily blur together without notes or photos to differentiate them. You don’t have to take notes while you’re touring but take time to note your impressions before you forget them. You’ll want to talk to them over later with your friends, parents or college counselor.
6. Schedule a second visit.
Once you have narrowed your list of prospective colleges down, try to plan a second visit during the school year. This will allow you to see the campus in another light and give you a more realistic view of the school. If you can’t visit, try to reconnect with some of the contacts you made during your summer visit and use them as a resource.