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Visit College Campuses During the Summer

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If you and your parents have time over the vacation, then summer campus visits, while not quite the same as visiting during the academic year, are still worth the trip. Though most students aren't on campus, you can still get a school's "flavor" during the summer by taking a campus tour.

In the fall, I highly recommend, that you visit the schools on your "short" list (your favorite top schools), in the fall to go on interviews, sit in on classes, and see what the campus is like when school is in full swing.

If time, distance, and your budget limit the number of schools you can visit, you can still narrow down your list based on your summer research and interests, and then plan a visit to your number one choice in the fall.

Here are some suggestions for how to prepare for campus visits:

1. Do your homework. Use the Internet and/or college handbooks (available in libraries and high-school guidance offices) to gather information about the school ahead of time. You should know the following basic information:

  • General location of the school
  • Majors offered
  • Tuition and related costs
  • Size of student body
  • Average SAT's/GPA needed for admission
  • Setting (big city, college town, or rural campus)
  • Affiliation (public, private, liberal arts, church-affiliated)
  • Average class sizes and student-teacher ratio
  • Percentage of students who graduate in four years
  • Safety/security of campus (schools must make statistics available upon request)
  • Career placement services and employment figures for recent graduates
  • National rankings by various sources
  • Sports offered
  • Greek life
  • Religious affiliation
  • Male/female ratio
  • Computer, Internet, and e-mail access
  • Cultural opportunities
  • Housing (dormitories and off-campus housing)

    2. Set up an interview. Once you've done your homework, call the Admissions Office to make an appointment. Never just show up. In the summer, it's important to call ahead for an appointment because admissions staff may be on vacation.

    If you're serious about a school, you should go on an interview even if it's not required. You want an admissions officer to have a picture to go along with the name on your application, and you want to find out as much as you can about a potential future "home." Before arriving on campus, you should set up interviews with:

  • An admissions counselor
  • A financial aid officer
  • A professor or other representative from the academic department(s) you're interested in
  • An athletics coach, if applicable

    Tips for Sizing-Up the Campus
    When you're there, study the campus closely--does this seem like a place where you would like to spend four years of your life? Also, investigate the closest community. While most of your time will be spent on campus, you'll want to venture into town to take a break. Be sure that the campus and the local community will meet your needs.

    Should you bring your parents?
    For the initial college visits, it's a good idea to bring at least one parent with you - if possible. Since most parents will be paying at least part of the bill, they usually expect to have a little "say" about where their money is going. While you might not want your parents "tagging along," colleges expect and encourage parents to attend initial visits. Parents also have a way of asking questions some kids may be too shy or uncomfortable to ask.

    While I recommend that parents visit a school with prospective students during the summer, ultimately you'll need to decide where to spend the next four -- or more -- years of your life. Make every effort to demonstrate to yourself and your parents that you are mature enough to make the right decision. When you come back from your visit, make sure you:

  • Review your research.
  • Make a list of the pros and cons of each school.
  • Talk with former and present students (get a list of students who've volunteered to talk to prospective students from the admissions office).
  • Schedule a visit for the fall if you liked the school.
  • Get input from your parents, counselors, teachers, and friends.

    Enjoy your visits and good luck!


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