Choosing a college without visiting first is like buying a car without driving it or buying shoes online. How will you know if it's the right fit for your young student? Once you've narrowed your search to a few top candidates, you need to see them in person.
Visiting a college while school is in session is a great way to see what the campus is like when your student will actually be there. Yet this can be difficult to do for the average family with children in school. Summer can be an ideal time to visit college campuses, as long as you keep a few tips in mind...
Advantages to the Summer Tour
In some ways, summer is the best time to tour schools. You want to see schools back-to-back rather than have weeks between visits. The experiences will be fresh in your minds and you can better compare candidates. Your student can sink himself into the study and see every college on his list in a couple of weeks. He can spend a few days at each one without the pressure of a high school schedule.
Colleges understand how tough it is for families to get away during the school year to research. Companies such as USummer provide college tours during the summer months that show prospective students what their college experience will be like. Universities like Kansas State and Carnegie Mellon deliver major-specific programs to show potential applicants what they will learn and how they will study.
Many colleges do offer summer classes. Arrange to drop in on one. They typically have a lower student-to-faculty ratio, giving your kid more time with the instructor.
And remember, colleges are selling themselves to you. They will accommodate your curiosity. You will not receive answers to 100% of the questions you don't ask. So try to set up an appointment with the head of the department your student will be studying in. Perhaps staff will be available during the summer and happy to oblige.
Some advice is still good whether it's July or January. Research prior to your visit is essential. Know what you want to learn. Be focused in your study. Have a list of questions. Know what professors you want to meet or at least learn about. Where will your child be taking most of his classes? Go there.
You will be sent on a tour with the specific purpose of selling the school to you. Make sure you get away from it after a while. Search around on your own. Talk to random students and staff. Get the real information from people not paid to be salesperson.
Document everything. Write down answers next to your list of questions. Take pictures and videos. Journal about your impressions as you experience them. At the end of your whirlwind summer, all the campuses you visited may begin to feel the same. Make sure you have notes to review.
Summer College Adventure
Have fun with it. It's a good excuse for a road trip. If your chosen college isn't surrounded by nature or other interesting attractions, it could be a boring place to study.
Your student will grow and change rapidly once he hits college. This may be one of the last times to take such a trip. Make sure it's more than just a research experience.
Start building a college list with your child.