summer vacation and visiting collegesSummer Vacation is Coming

Summer might actually look like it’s supposed to this year. And the same is true for many college campuses across the country.

They’re beginning a return to normal, in whatever form that takes. Included in this return is the traditional, in-person college tour. If you and your family have planned a well-deserved summer vacation and you can swing it, consider adding a college visit (or two or three) to your travel schedule.

College Visits

College visits, particularly when done in person, provide students with invaluable research into schools. For admissions purposes, this shows colleges and universities that a student is seriously considering attending their school. This concept is known as “demonstrated interest.”

Many schools value demonstrated interest, at least moderately, when reviewing an applicant for admission. Furthermore, a visit allows you to experience what a school is like beyond its website, reputation, and standings in the Final Four or College World Series.

Visiting Colleges as Rising High School Junior

If you’re a rising high school junior, you probably don’t need to travel far to visit colleges just yet (if at all). You can, however, get a feel for types of schools—from small liberal arts colleges to big research universities—by visiting those within a short drive of your home.

Even if you don’t see yourself attending college nearby, use these visits as a launchpad for developing a solid college list later on. If you’re a rising senior, you may already have a list of schools you’re interested in. For you, visits are an excellent way to pare down or modify that list.

Creating a College List this Summer Vacation

If you don’t have a list, that’s okay, too. Take a deep dive into college guidebooks and websites to answer some basic questions:

  • What academic programs are you most interested in pursuing? (It’s okay if you don’t know).
  • Do you see yourself at a large school with lots of research opportunities and tons of team spirit?
  • Would you prefer a small school focused on undergraduate teaching and professor accessibility?
  • Do you prefer an urban, rural, or college town environment?
  • Are you interested in playing a particular sport or joining a jazz ensemble?
  • How important is Greek life, political activism, or student body government?

Finding a Good Fit

Investigating the answers to these questions not only helps you find a “good fit” school, but it also allows you to formulate questions to ask once you’re face to face with your campus tour guide or a college admissions representative. And, once you’ve decided on schools you’d like to visit, don’t hop in the car just yet. Be sure to schedule an official tour for each school, typically done through the admissions page on the college’s website. You can always call the admissions office if you are unsure or have questions.

Engage with Colleges this Summer Vacation

Once you’re on campus, engage! This is your time to get answers to those burning questions and experience the real atmosphere of the school. Talk to your tour guide, most often a current student, to find out what it’s really like to work and play at their school. Attend an admissions information session, and grab the card from the admission rep so you can easily follow up later with a thank-you and any questions you may have.

If you have the time, participate in an on-campus interview or sit in on a class. And, be sure to leave some unscheduled time to revisit academic departments, the University Center or Student Union, the gym, bookstore, and dining facilities. Eat a meal and observe students coming and going. Walk around campus. Can you picture yourself there?  Do you feel comfortable? Do you like it?

Use your phone or a notebook to jot down any thoughts you have and the names of admissions personnel and the tour guide that you meet. Follow up with thank-you notes to these individuals to show your appreciation. The extra bit demonstrated interest doesn’t hurt either.

Visiting college campuses this summer vacation is an excellent way to learn more about schools, get a feel for different campus vibes, and demonstrate your interest in attending these institutions. Your on-campus experiences will likely impact the direction of your college search by allowing you to hone in on the schools that will make you happiest. So, if you’ve got the time this summer, go ahead and hit the road.