By Janice Caine, Founder of Custom College Visits
It’s summer! Time to think about novels to read on the beach, vacation plans, and college campus visits with your teen.
At Custom College Visits, we are often asked by parents whether it makes sense to visit colleges and universities during the summer when most classes are not in session. Of course, in a perfect world, everyone would like to schedule visits during the school year, but that often involves students missing school during a critical time. Or perhaps your work schedule does not coincide with your teen’s vacation days. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to visit all the colleges on a student’s list at one time.
Our belief is to visit when you can—these visits, no matter what time of year, are still the best way for your teen to get a feel for the culture of the campus and the community.
These days, many colleges, such as those in the University of California system, offer summer sessions for matriculated students, and there are always students that stay on campus during the summer for work or to do research. At Dartmouth College, sophomores are required to spend the summer on campus. Colleges and universities across the U.S. also sponsor summer camps and pre-college enrichment programs during the summer (something your high schooler might want to investigate).
So if you visit campuses in the summer, you might not see as many current students, faculty members, and others from the college community as during the fall and spring semesters, but chances are there will still be plenty of people about for you and your teen to interact with, dining halls where you can check out the food, and places of interest on campus for you to visit.
During the summer months, colleges and universities also continue to offer guided campus tours that are led by current students, and many colleges are once again offering admissions information sessions. Some colleges may increase the number of tours they offer during summer weekdays and/or may also offer tours on Saturdays.
If you find that you can’t reserve a tour spot on the day(s) you are available, check with the admissions office to see if they have a waitlist. You may also want to find out about self-guided tours. Many colleges have printed maps that guide you through campus, while others offer audio tours that you can follow. Most likely the admissions offices and/or visitor centers will be open so your teen will still be able to ask questions and gather information.
For those colleges offering interviews, summertime is perfect for scheduling a personal interview—but be sure your teen reserves a spot as soon as possible! As with campus tours and information sessions, these spots do fill up quickly.
A suggestion for your teen: when visiting colleges this summer have them ask – either at the bookstore or in an information session – what book has been assigned to the incoming first-year class. For most colleges and universities, the purpose of summer reading is to provide a common thread for new students and foster a sense of community. The selected title can offer great insight into the school’s current goals for its students and help your teen start to get a feel for the school.
Some colleges offer open houses and discovery days for high school students during the summer. Make sure your teen registers on the websites of those colleges that are of interest to them; they will then be notified of any special events that the colleges may be hosting for prospective students, and you can plan accordingly. Remember, like all other admissions-sponsored activities and events, space is limited, so plan as much in advance as possible.
If you have limited time to travel during the summer, you might consider combining college visits with a family vacation. You could even start on the college campuses themselves. Colleges and universities boast historic landmarks, incredible architecture, museums, halls of fame, gardens, and other fascinating points of interest right on their campuses.
Do you have any sports fans in the family? If you’re visiting Florida Atlantic University (FAU) or one of the other universities in South Florida, you may wish to visit the Avron B. Fogelman Sports Museum on FAU’s campus. It’s incredible! Or perhaps you’re visiting the University of Michigan; you can arrange to take a guided tour of Michigan Stadium or Yost Arena. Any nature lovers? If so, check to see if any of the college campuses that you will be visiting have botanical gardens and leave time to explore them. You’ll find these exquisite gardens on many campuses – from the larger universities such as the University of Washington to the smaller liberal arts colleges like Smith College, whose gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. From history to stargazing, medical history and hiking, there is plenty to see and do on college campuses.
If you’ve been on the fence about visiting colleges this summer, think about doing a college road trip and a vacation, turn that beach read into a travel read, and go ahead and make the plans!