How to Make the Most Out of College Summer Campus Visits

How to Make the Most Out of College Summer Campus Visits
  • Opening Intro -

    Friends of ours will be sending their daughter off to college next year, but before then she has to consider which schools will be a good fit for her.

    One way that they will be doing this is by visiting each college over the summer.


Fortunately for them, all four schools on her list are in the midwest and will be visited several days apart over a two-week period. They’ll be mixing vacation with college visits to give the two younger children a chance to catch the sites as well.

Is summer an ideal time to visit college campuses? It can be, although there are some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of visiting any college during the summer months.

Pro — Realistically, for most families the only time colleges can be visited is during the summer unless one of the school choices is local. Summer vacations can be wrapped around candidate school visits to save money and to cover the cost of these visits.

Con — Summer visits are easier to do, but the prospective student won’t get a good idea on what the campus is like during the busy fall and spring academic semesters. Some schools are virtual ghost towns with dorms locked, library hours curtailed and few students milling about. At least with this option parking should not be a problem!

Pro— Just as you can do during the main part of the year, students can usually sit in on summer classes with the permission of the college first of course. Though summer classes are more intense, prospective students can gauge how classes are structured and get a feel for instructors, some of whom may teach throughout the year.

Con — You may have to do some extra planning to arrange a campus tour during the summer. Larger schools offer them year ’round, but come late July when most schools are basically abandoned for several weeks before resuming activity for the fall, means your vacation may have to take place earlier in the summer.

Pro — Let’s face it: college campuses can be simply beautiful places to visit during the summer. Rich, green foliage and manicured lawns are the look that college administrators want to present to prospective students. Those settings become pictures that grace the cover of college catalogs and dominate college websites. You can dress casually when visiting campus and may even get a behind the scenes tour that might be difficult to pull off at other times of the year.

Con — Ugh. Construction. Yes, colleges have a lot in common with state highway departments — most of the maintenance work is done during the warmer months. Larger colleges and universities seem to always be building or renovating. If the plan is especially ambitious, you can expect that large portions of the campus will be off-limits when you visit. If your child wants to see a prized research lab but it is closed for repairs, this can be very disappointing for the entire family. Always call ahead to learn about possible closings — you may be able to work around these or come back later in the week when the workers take a break.

Pro — The long and short of summer college visits is this: your child may be able to narrow his or her list to a manageable number. This is important for students with six or more schools in the running. By picking the top three or four schools, your student can concentrate on applying to these with the rest of the schools marked off of the list.

Further Considerations

Visiting college campuses with younger siblings in tow can be difficult for the prospective student. One way to get around this is having one parent accompany the student and the other parent occupy the siblings. Most tours are completed within a few hours, making it easy for family members to meet up when the campus visit is over. And remember to keeps tabs of your college-related expenses. Some of these costs may be eligible for tax benefits.

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Categories: Personal Advice