Yes, you can have some summer fun and still learn about the colleges you think you want to attend next year.
I heard that summer is not a good time to go to see colleges because students are not in session. NOT TRUE! Almost every college has a summer session or two going on, and the summer is great time to see a school simply because the weather is better. What a difference it makes when you visit a school when it looks all pretty and not as crowded versus during cold and rainy days. So many students form strong opinions within a few minutes on the school’s grounds or simply by the impression the student guide left on them.
First, go during the summer. Travel can be less expensive and if you need financial help to make a visit, call the Admissions offices because some schools offer support for specific student visits. You might be eligible or offered some assistance in terms of hotel and/or travel discounts. Some schools have dorm rooms available to stay as well.
Second, plan your trips judiciously. Some students have given me direct feedback over the years about trips. Two colleges in one day is a lot! Parents like to be cost efficient and try to cram in a week trip with 12 schools or more. Please refrain from this if you can because the students are miserable and the schools seem similar or worse the student stops listening and caring. Even during the school year, it is never a good idea to cram in a lot of visits in a week. If you want to see several schools over the summer, great! But extend the trips to one trip every two weeks if you can and keep the number of schools to three or four over three days.
I love the summer for college visits because I do feel the students really get more attention. The tour guides are usually more relaxed and casual. You get a nice idea of the true campus experience. Walk the distances between buildings. Understand how you will navigate from dorms to classes to dining. Learn how the day might go from waking up to going to the library. Ask your tour guide to show you a typical student route and then walk or take the transportation and see how it goes for yourself. I went to a school with a defined campus but also somewhat spread out, daily it involved some hustling to get from class to class all over the grounds.
Third, make sure you sign up for the tour. It is somewhat interesting just to see what the actual students have been informed as to what highlights to point out. A word of caution: DO NOT judge the school by your impression of the tour guide! You might not like the student for whatever reason, in my experiences teens can be rather harsh for seemingly superficial reasons, but understand what the school has to offer by what you see and learn on the tour. If you have questions, great, keep them in mind, or better yet, send yourself a text if you hear or see something you want to question, and at the end of the tour ask the student or someone in Admissions.
Fourth, if you can, please attend the information session. Some are given by someone in Admission, and sometimes during the summer, there is actually someone else giving the sessions. Listen carefully about the school statistics, and be prepared to ask some meaningful questions. Most offer a Q&A at the end, and this is where you really need to be on your toes. Some things you might want to ask: What percent of the student body is supported with financial assistance, either through loans, scholarships, work study or grants? What is the financial assistance process, and how soon after accepting admission, do I contact this person/office? What type of housing is available locally if the school doesn’t provide housing all four years and is there a financial difference for some housing? Is there a lottery process in order to secure the best housing or does the school select? What is the SAT/ACT range without athletes in the pool? What percentage of applicants is accepted Early Decision or Early Action? If the school offers Early Action, ask: If the applicant doesn’t get into the first pool Early Action, is the application put back into the pool and re-examined during the next round or immediately rejected? What is the four year graduation percentage? What is the first year transfer percentage? (This one statistic could tell you a lot) What percentage of students study abroad? Does the school provide matching for Internships or is this done by student initiative through Career Planning and Placement? Where do the graduates go on to graduate school? Want to have some specific information based on a specific set of schools you are visiting, contact us! We can help you with who you should see and what you should ask based on your profile.
Students should also come up with some interesting questions, should you have an opportunity for a student informational interview. These are rare in large schools but some smaller schools do offer one-on-one student interviews. These are NOT interviews for admission, these are for information sharing.
Fifth, try to eat a meal at one of the school’s actual dining halls. See what the dining halls offer in terms of meal plans. Most schools offer either a 15 or 21 meals a week plan. Some have great many more offerings especially those schools that do not have upper class housing.
Sixth, if you are student who qualifies for accommodations under the ADA act, meet the ADA coordinator at the school. Try to get to an information session or at least learn about the intake process and how the accommodations are done. Learn the procedures and offerings the school offers. If you need some actual support with what you should ask and to whom you should address you questions, please contact us! We have a good deal of information about schools and the ADA support and accessibility.
If you have a particular interest, such as music, art, photography, architecture, etc. Try to get a separate tour of that department and meet the department head if you can. Bring your resume with you and leave a copy with any department head or coach you might want to contact later, and remember, ASK FOR BUSINESS CARDS! Don’t have resume, contact us for a free template, or we are certainly able to help you polish and perfect what you already have!
When you get home, please send an actual hand written, not email or text, thank you note to those who gave you their time. This final impression is always remembered by those who receive these notes.
Enjoy your tours!