School is out for summer! Well…not quite for high school juniors and their parents. Summer is often the opportune time for families to visit college campuses. It is ideal because you do not have to schedule your visit around prom, AP exams, softball games etc. It’s also nice to be on campus because the weather is pleasant. But, there is more to a college campus visit than green grass and sunny skies.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your campus visit:
After a few campus tours the colleges will begin to blend together and all look the same. You may ask yourself- which campus had the library that was open 24 hours? Which school had 10 different cafeterias? It’s okay that you can’t remember every detail. In order to keep things straight it is best to chronicle your visits by taking a few photos. As a parent, you will have to assume the role of the “uncool parent” who snaps photos of the dorm room, but trust me, your child will thank you later.
While on campus it’s worth checking out the bulletin boards and the school newspaper. Every admission counselor will tell you there are plenty of campus activities and students typically stay on campus on the weekends. However, these two information sources are just that, a great indicator of what is really happening on campus. Glance at a calendar of student activities (concerts, barbeques, community service opportunities, off campus trips etc.). Also, explore academic based activities such as tutoring, internship listings, or job postings.
After visiting campus, venture into the nearby town. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your possible surroundings. Does it feel right? Is it safe and accessible from campus? Is there a school shuttle to get into town (Often, freshman can’t have cars)? How far is the local pharmacy? Is there a downtown area?
Jot down your thoughts after each visit. What did you think of the campus in general? Dorms? Cafeteria? Gym? What was the overall feel? Can you picture yourself there? It is a good idea for both the student and their parent to chronicle their initial impressions separately and then talk about it afterwards. As a parent you know your child best and will be able to point out positives or negatives your child may not have noticed.
Visiting a campus is the best way to decide if a school should be on your child’s college list. Students often wait to visit campus until the fall of their senior year. However, a college list should be finalized by September 1st. This ensures students can focus solely on the application process and writing essays at the beginning of their senior year. Although school is out for summer, your college homework has just begun…enjoy the tours!
Erica White is the founder of The Path to College and also works as a College & Career Counselor. She has toured 87 colleges to date and meets with over 75 college representatives each year to learn about the latest admission trends. Visit www.thepathtocollege.com