Rising juniors and seniors may consider visiting and evaluating colleges this summer. After all, without any papers due or exams pending, summer vacation offers what students usually lack…time to travel. However, by understanding the purpose of college visits, it is easy to determine why college visits during summer vacation are unproductive.
A college visit is meant for students to determine if the schools visited are good fits. Before starting their visits, students should first conduct preliminary research to narrow down (or build) their lists of schools. This research should be based on admissions chances (Are my scores a good match for this school?), school size, religious affiliations, majors available, geographic location, size of the city or town where the college is located, and cost of attendance. By consulting with independent admissions counselors, students can further narrow (or expand) their search based on their counselors’ extensive visits and experience. However, after this research, students should visit campuses on their lists to measure their personal fit.
Students can measure their personal fit at each university in a number of ways. First, they should observe and talk to current students. Do current students seem happy? Which courses do they like the best and the least and why? How much guidance do they receive? What do they think of their professors? What do they think of their classmates? What are their favorite extracurricular activities? Just watching how current students interact with one another in the halls, at the cafeteria, and in the dorms can give prospective students an idea of the general atmosphere at the college. Many colleges and universities even allow students to sleep over in the dorms to make these observations.
Other ways of determining personal fit include reading bulletin boards. This will allow prospective students to get an idea of what the most popular and/or advertised activities are. Religious students may want to visit faith based campus activities. Also, students may be able to attend classes in their potential major. Auditing a few classes for a day can give prospective students an idea of general class structure and how well they would thrive academically at the university.
Unfortunately, when visiting during summer vacation, many of these opportunities are gone. Students who are on campus may be locals enrolled during the academic year at other universities or worse, high school kids who are taking advantage of summer programs. They can hardly give the prospective student a true view of the university or college. Summer classes may not be of the same rigor as classes during the school year. Tours may still be functioning, but they can only show students empty buildings and provide students with facts available in guidebooks. Hence, while college visits are important, they are best reserved for the regular school year.