Summer is an ideal time for rising high school juniors and seniors to focus on their college plans and get a closeup look at universities on their list with a well-planned, in-person visit to each campus. These visits are an important part of the college search process because a student will be calling their chosen campus “home” for four years.
“While campuses aren’t as busy in the summer as they are during the rest of the school year, summer break may be the only time available for high school students to get away and enjoy the full campus experience. Universities understand that and do their best to make certain there are ample opportunities available for conversations with current students, as well as admission and financial aid officers, to get answers to any questions they have. Additionally, professors and coaches may have more time available to meet with prospective students during the summer,” advises Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, vice president for enrollment management at Otterbein University.
Here are some tips for prospective college students – and their families – who want to get the most of out of their summer college visits:
- Make an itinerary and map out your visits. If you are just starting your college search, it makes sense to visit one or two schools that are close to home before you plan that visit across the country. When there are universities on your list that are close to each other, plan to visit them in one trip. But try not to plan more than two visits in a single day. More than that can be overwhelming and won’t give you time to experience the campus and determine if a school feels like the right match for your interests and personality.
- Sign up early for a tour, as summer schedules fill quickly. Your contact will be the school’s admissions office(see Tip 4, below). Many other families will be visiting campuses during summer vacation, so the best way to ensure you get the attention you need is to schedule a tour in advance of your visit. Once the date and time of your tour is confirmed, you can then schedule transportation and a hotel, if you are coming from out of town.
- Make time to explore not only the campus, but also the surrounding community. While campus is a student’s home for four years, the surrounding areas are their community. See if that community is a comfortable fit. Ask yourself if you want to be in a bustling city, or in a quiet, easy-going town. See if the area offers shops and restaurants you would want to frequent. Find out if there are opportunities for internships and other hands-on learning in the area. And consider transportation needs, because if you don’t have a car you’ll want to know if the area is walkable or offers public transportation.
- Contact the admission office before you visit. The staff at the admission office can give you tips on hotels, restaurants, and additional details about your visit. You can also talk to them about any special accommodations your family may need on the visit so they can provide you and your family with the very best campus visit experience.
- Take notes as you go. A busy schedule of college visits may leave you feeling overwhelmed, and the schools will start to run together in your head. That makes it important to write down thoughts, feelings, pros, and cons as you go. Consider bringing a list of questions with you and writing down the answers. And don’t forget to take pictures. Those visual cues are a great way to remember how a campus and its community made you feel.