No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks. School is over. School is done. We can stop learning and start having fun.
School is out and summer is in. While it’s tempting to while away the days poolside, summer is the perfect opportunity to visit a few colleges and get the lay of the land. Most schools still bustle in the summer months and hold information sessions and student led tours. There is a lot to be said for taking time when you have it to explore some schools of interest.
Many families use summer vacation trips to work in a visit to a college or two when their student is a freshman or sophomore in high school, and then specifically schedule several campus visits in the summer of rising junior year. You do get “better” at these college visits after you’ve done a few, so it helps to take a few practice runs before you get down to the schools at the top of your list.
To help make the most out of these visits, here are our 5 Tips for both students and their parents. For more information to help you narrow down the list of choices, here’s our article on Researching Colleges, and what you should be looking for.
1. Research the college before you visit.
We understand that this should not actually need to be stated, but it does. Spend some time on the school’s website looking at general statistics such as total enrollment, undergraduate enrollment, approximate tuition costs, student to teacher ratio, and location. Your college career is a big investment of time, effort and finances, so do your homework on the front end.
Editors Tip = If you are visiting, bookmark the webpages with a campus map, as you will surely be lost at at least one and possibly all campuses you visit. Or go on and download the college’s app if they have one ~ some have geo-locating maps that are really helpful. You can even go old school, and print the map out for easy parental reference.
2. Participate in an information session and student led tour of campus.
Make sure you sign up in advance and check in at the admissions office when you get there. Many schools track what is called “demonstrated interest” of their applicants. Demonstrated interest is a way for an applicant to show the school that you are seriously considering them. One of the ways schools keep track of potential students is through an official school visit, also known as the tour and info session. In addition to showing your interest, it is important for several other reasons. Attending an information session allows you to hear about the academic programs offered by the school, as well as the many outside the classroom offerings like research opportunities, study abroad options, and athletics. By participating in a student led tour, you have the opportunity to hear firsthand from a student about what life is like at that school. Remember, that firsthand account is just that – an opinion of one person. Don’t put too much weight on the tour guide’s experience and insight.
3. Sit in on classes, check out the library, and dine on-campus.
Think of this as conducting your own psychology/sociology experiment. Take the time to observe the interactions of the students with each other and with the professors on campus both inside and outside the classroom. Are students studying together? Do the teachers seem easily accessible to the students in class and also in the cafeteria? Could you see yourself among them? What study places are available and do they suit your learning style?
4. Look at life beyond the academics.
Although academics are often the draw to a particular school for many students, it is only one piece of the college experience puzzle. Take some time to look at the bulletin boards or grab a school newspaper and read what the students are doing during their free time. When you are walking around campus, notice what activities the students are getting excited about – athletics, community service, clubs, Greek life. The options are endless.
5. Write down your impressions of each college that you visit.
We are saving the best for last here, so you should pay attention to this one! Everyone thinks that they will remember all the details of each school visit and keep them all straight, but the reality is that after a few school visits, they all blur together. While you are at the school, snap a few pictures on your phone, or at least allow your mom or dad take one. As soon as you leave a school, write down your thoughts and impressions of the school including likes and dislikes. Parents may want to use Evernote as it allows you to take notes and insert pictures in between text, and even set up notebooks to file away all the information you get. For the students? Taking notes on your phone is probably the easiest and most efficient way to do it – since no teenager on the planet goes anywhere without it.