During a busy school year, the college application process can
fall to the bottom of the priority list. Keeping up good grades,
participating in sports and clubs, working, volunteering and doing
all the other things that make a good college applicant can also
make it hard for students to squeeze in college visits.
Every recent high school grad gives the same advice: start early.
Don’t leave it all for senior year. Most students ignore this
advice no matter how many times they hear it, and the time gets
away from them. College visits are the most difficult part of the
college process to fit in to the school year, especially if the
schools in question are far away.
A campus visit early on can save students and parents a lot of
effort and stress. As good as a college may sound on paper – or
online – sometimes a real-world visit can make it clear that it is
not the right fit. That’s something that students want to know
before they waste their valuable time filling out the extra
application or Common App supplement. And it’s something parents
want to know before they waste their money on the application fee,
which may be up to $80.
Visiting a college during the summer has some negatives, but it
also has some major positives. In addition to alleviating some
stress during the school year, a summer college visit can allow
your family more one-on-one time with the tour guide, admissions
department, and faculty members you might want to see, because
most of the students are not around.
There are benefits to meeting with the campus staff in person as
well. For instance, if you’re hoping to get a little more
financial aid, it doesn’t hurt to meet with a financial aid
officer. It really is possible to have financial aid reconsidered. It’s not just a myth.
Other important people to meet on a college tour:
• A member of the faculty in your student’s intended major
• An admissions officer
• Career center representative
It may seem like meeting students in the summer would be
difficult, because the campus is quieter. However, most mid-size
and larger colleges have activities that keep students on campus.
The ones you do meet are usually more likely to have time to
answer all of your questions.
Your tour guide should be a great resource too. Have your child
request one in their major. I found that incredibly helpful. There
are also students who stay on campus to do internships or take
summer classes, and some of them end up getting on-campus jobs.
Visit the library desks or the mail room or even the admissions
office; you’re more than likely to find a student worker with some
spare time to talk.
Other than the number of students and maybe the weather,
everything else at a college is about the same in the summer. It’s
a good time to check out the surrounding community. This can be a
very important aspect of the college experience. As a student, it
is important to enjoy the campus life, but going off campus can
sometimes help change up your day-to-day routine. A great way to
do this is to explore surrounding neighborhoods, towns or cities,
checking out places for dining, theaters, museums, local
libraries, and sports venues. (If you have a campus meal plan,
don’t get in the habit of eating off campus too often or you will
waste that valuable plan!)
It’s a great idea for parents and future college student to
prepare a list of questions to ask before your visit. It also saves a lot of
time if you go over all the different factors of choosing a
college and decide together which ones are most important before
visiting. Distance, social environment and housing may matter for
some students, but not at all for others. There are so many
different elements to consider. Think it through before your
If you visit some colleges during the summer, you may decide to
see a few again during the school year before making a final
decision. That’s better than rushing through 15 visits during
application season or, even worse, right before you put the
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