Making the most of your summer college visit: a mother’s guide to the mother of all road trips

Susan Hartley Brisson
 

Summer beckons.  Days are longer; nights are warmer.  All the possibilities of the season stretch deliciously before you.  In just a few short weeks, you’ll be finished with school and finally have time for friends, relaxing and, if you’re a rising high school senior, some really fun road trips with your entire family!  Time to visit colleges!

Road Trip Sign

Photo credit: https://adoptahighway.net/road-trippin-2/

Summer college visits make a lot of sense.  There’s no need to miss school, and there’s always the possibility of combining a college visit with a vacation.  There’s also no worry that your campus tour will be cancelled due to a snow storm (entirely possible during a March visit to a New England campus!).  But there are some potential downsides to be aware of, too. Classes are not always in session during the summer – and even if they are, college campuses are usually much quieter in June, July and August, so there are fewer students available to talk with you.  Sometimes maintenance work and renovations prevent you from seeing all of the campus facilities as they normally are during the academic year.

But despite the challenges, it IS possible to have an informative and satisfying college visit during the summer.  Here are some things to think of:

Do your research.  Spend some time on the websites and/or with the publications of the colleges you plan to visit.  Getting some basic information about the colleges ahead of time (campus size, majors offered, admission requirements, and so on) can allow you to maximize your time on campus by asking questions beyond what is available on the website. As well as informing any questions you may want to ask, you can see if your gut reaction to the campus is in line with what you’ve read about it.  More on gut reactions below.

Pay attention to the academic calendar:  Some campuses (particularly larger ones) will have summer programs.  The students attending may or may not be actual college students, so during your research; take a look at the academic calendar of the institutions you’re visiting to see what the summer sessions are all about.

Use your tour guide as a resource:  Ask your tour guide what it’s like during the fall and winter.  They are an actual student at the college or university you’re visiting, so they’ll be able to comment on what the campus vibe is like during the academic year.

Ask about connecting with a student via email or phone.  At Olin, we have a group of students called Olin Ambassadors.  They are eager to correspond with prospective students, so feel free to email them any questions about their experiences here.  Other campuses may offer similar programs that allow you to connect virtually with current students.

Don’t schedule too many visits in one day.  Despite the best planning, travel between campuses can be unpredictable, so allow plenty of time between appointments.  And while you can always confirm facts via a website or prospectus, take your time on campus to get a feel for the intangibles.  Make sure you take a few moments to walk leisurely across a quad or read all the bulletin boards in the campus center, and take note of your gut response.

Manage your expectations.  Don’t think that you’re going to set foot on the green lawns (or city streets) of a college and fall instantly in love with the institution.  While that can happen for some, it’s not the norm, in my experience.  There’s value in seeing both colleges you love and colleges you don’t love, so don’t despair if you’re not seeing “the one” right away.  They’re out there.  Trust me.

Drink plenty of water.  Wear sunscreen and comfortable shoes.  And have fun!

Olin Campus in Summer

Want to visit Olin College this summer? Sign up using our online campus visit calendar!

Posted in: Susan, All Admission Staff Blogs