The campus visit – even in the summer – is the best way to learn if a college is the right fit. Summer campus visits can be worthwhile, but families must weigh the tradeoffs of visiting when there may be few students on campus. However, when I toured Williams College in the summer with my oldest son, there were so many students on the campus visit that we took separate tours with student guides. If there are few students on campus, prospective high school students can still have the opportunity to learn about what the college offers.
Campus visit options
Many colleges offer summer visit schedules and the planning should be done weeks in advance. Here are a few different campus visit options that may be available in the summer:
- Individual visit – includes an information session and campus tour.
- Open House – comprehensive visit which may include faculty/student panels, financial aid presentation for parents, dorm tours, and/or eating in the dining hall.
- Self-guided tour – the short description of this . . . “you’re on your own!”
How campus visit matters
While it may be more ideal to visit during the school year to see the campus in action, the summer may be the only time that parents are available to visit with their teen. A summer campus visit is still better than no visit at all. For colleges that track “demonstrated interest”, the campus visit is a clear indicator that the student is interested in attending. This is especially important if a student lives within a 4-5 hour drive of a campus.
Summer campus visits can be most important for high school juniors. As juniors are finalizing their college list, a summer campus visit can be considerably helpful for writing applications in the fall. Likewise, given how busy the fall of senior year will be, it’s usually not enough time to go on a campus visit, especially if a teen plays a sport or participates in marching band.
When not to visit in summer
For one of my junior students, however, I did recommend a visit during fall of senior year, rather than the summer. She’s a tennis player and will have a couple rigorous AP classes and an Honors course in her busy schedule. Here’s why I made that suggestion . . .
The college she would visit was a small campus in an even smaller town. I have personally visited that same college in the summer and there was not even a student guide available to give me a tour. The campus was extremely quiet and the nearby downtown area was quieter, even on a sunny afternoon.
There’s a strong likelihood that if she visits this college in the summer, it will be hard to picture herself there. That first impression may be hard to overcome and cause her to falsely decide to not apply.
It can be a tough call, for sure, when teens and their parents are already so busy. Traveling a distance to visit college campuses can also be expensive.
The investment for college will be far greater so it makes sense to get the list right the first time. When a student has a strong impression of a campus during the summer, it will still be valuable to get a feel for how spirited a campus may be during the academic year. That visit during the academic year can be done after the student has been admitted, which will be even more telling if that college is the right fit.
Where are you planning to visit this summer?