A campus visit in summer is better than no visit
College campuses during the summer usually fall into one extreme or another. Many colleges are crowded with kids; they just happen to be members of a much younger demographic. Colleges are now frequently offering sports camps and enrichment programs to elementary, middle and high school students. Taking a college tour surrounded by unruly fifth-graders can be a little disconcerting.
On the other hand, some college campuses are eerily empty, and that makes it hard to imagine what it’s like to have posters plastered on every surface or to be around when classes break and the hum of college kids is in surround-sound. It’s hard to get a handle on the campus culture or the vibe of the student body when they’re not there.
Families frequently ask me whether it is still worth it to visit colleges over the summer because they know they won’t be seeing the real thing. My advice is that any visit is better than no visit. If schedules don’t allow a campus visit during the spring of junior year or if the fall of senior year feels too late, then make the most of your summer.
Here are some tips to make your summer campus visits more meaningful.
Make sure the admissions office is open. Admissions offices often adjust their campus visit schedules during the summer months, frequently offering fewer tours. Go on a day when there is a scheduled tour. Wandering around on your own is OK, but you’ll miss out on important details that are shared in both the information session and the campus tour.
Wander around afterward to explore buildings that weren’t on the tour. Visit the theater department or the music building. Check out the fitness facilities. Talk to some students and see whether you can take a peek at the dorm rooms.
Eat in the dining hall. This is less about rating the food and more about seeing how students interact as well as the diversity and friendliness of the student body.
Visit during an orientation session. If possible, try to arrange your visit when the college is conducting one of its orientation sessions for the incoming freshmen. There will be lots of students on campus who can answer questions, and you may find a freshman from your hometown who can share some college admissions insights. Your child might even be able to tag along on an orientation activity.
Don’t go home empty-handed. Grab literature, get a copy of the latest edition of the student newspaper, take photos and jot down whatever notes will help you distinguish this college from any others you visit.
Visit the financial aid office. If you have financial concerns, schedule an appointment, in advance, with the financial aid office. Take copies of your most recent tax returns.