The so-called “Spring Semester” always struck me as funny when I was in college. After coming back from winter break, we would slog through half of January, all of what was usually quite a bitter cold February and March, and then, just when the most temperate days of spring began to grace campus, it would be finals week and we would head home. The Fall Semester, on the other hand, is aptly named. It runs from the end of summer just up to the bite of winter. However, for many of the schools in our country, the “Spring Semester” may just as well be called “Winter Term.”
Prime Time for Visiting Colleges
It’s no coincidence that the majority of university admitted students’ days and prime time campus tour offerings take place in mid-spring and early autumn. The folks who plan these types of events are not trying to hide anything from us. However, they are trying to present their campuses and their communities in the best light (literally and figuratively) possible, meaning that they will naturally steer us away from what can turn out to be some pretty dreary winter days. People love to spend time outdoors in the midst of redolent flowers and folding chairs set up all across the quad to catch the sun. Admissions folks know this and want to pick event dates that will give their campus the best shot at attracting prospective students. This leads to lots of prospective students visiting colleges towards the end of the Spring semester. The problem with seeing a university through these intentionally rose-colored glasses is that, in the future, when you are a student there, you will probably be forced to experience a wildly different season for the majority of your studies (depending on your geographic location of course).
Visiting Colleges in Warmer Climates
For those of you who are exclusively looking at southern, southwestern, and/or California-based schools, I won’t feel offended if you click off this post and move on with your lives. Go grab some sunscreen and maybe invest in solar panels. For everyone else, let’s dig in on visiting colleges.. It’s going to be a cold one!
When Should You Plan Your Visit?
Let me lead with this: it is not appropriate to judge a school based on its appearance, vibe, or really anything during a time when it is closed, and most all universities shut their doors during the holiday break. That means don’t plan your school visits for anytime between a week before Christmas and mid-January. However, after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all bets are off. This is when you should start exploring the “springtime” wonderland of your target universities through the remainder of January and through February and March. If you still can’t contain your love for a school on a grey, sleeting day in the middle of February, then you’ve quite possibly found your home. However, it has been my experience that many students’ opinions of a school are swayed greatly by harsh weather, especially during the transitional years of college in which seasonal depression and other mental health issues are of even more concern.
Visting Colleges in Winter
Make sure you know what the majority of your “spring semester” is going to look like by scheduling a tour for the winter months. With this approach, it’s best to plan on visiting colleges after your holiday break. If no tours are offered, then just head out to campus and walk around for the day (while wearing a lot of layers, of course). How are the students around you looking and/or feeling? Does the campus still feel inviting even without its patented emerald foliage that you heard all about at your tour over the summer? And what about accessibility, both in terms of physical access to buildings and facilities and to mental health resources during the coldest months? These are just a few questions that a winter visit can bring about, and they are extremely helpful in taking a step toward viewing your college as a home, a place you will be living during some of the most formative years of your life. These tips become even more pertinent if your top choices are located anywhere in the northeastern or midwestern United States.
Appreciating Spring Semesters
While tramping through slush on the way to an 8 AM class never was the most glamorous thing I did in college, I truly appreciated my spring semesters. They allowed me to express gratitude for the changing of the seasons and helped me take ownership of my new home. There is nothing like experiencing seasonal weather and the cycle of life in a place you love. So, here’s my challenge to you: visit in the winter months! And don’t let the cold or the snow blur your vision of the path you know you were meant to take. If you have any questions about visiting colleges or campus tours, please contact us. Happy touring, everyone!