by Stuart Nachbar, Daytripper University Contributor *
College visits can be a worthwhile and exciting experience…that is when taken at the right time.
I learned this over 40 years ago when my mother and I came to visit Rutgers during the summer after my junior year. Back then, my mother and I did the campus tour in her car, using a map that we had received in the admissions office. Today, Rutgers has a well-staffed visitors center, including well-informed student ambassadors. But you get far less from summer college visits to campus, especially on Fridays, than you would if you came during the fall or spring semesters. There are far fewer students around, and many facilities are closed.
If your interests lean towards liberal arts colleges in smaller college towns, summer college visits make sense when there is a special program of interest on campus, one where you might meet faculty in a possible area of study. Gettysburg College, for example, has several summer programs for high school students within different majors. Oberlin College hosts several music workshops through its conservatory, including a nine-day Vocal Academy. Your visit might be longer than most, but you will be able to find out:
Is this school for you?
Is this academic program for you?
What courses, or outside instruction, do you need to consider taking during the senior year of high school, if you are interested in this program?
There are some schools where summer college visits resemble those during the fall and spring semesters more and hence make more sense to schedule.
Larger city universities such as George Washington University or NYU always have activity on campus. Students choose to remain in the city during the summer for classes or internships. The same is true for college towns in cities such as Madison, Wisconsin that are also state capitals or major business centers. The adult population on campus keeps local businesses busy as well as the student population.
Visit schools in college towns with a summer newspaper that covers campus activities and local events. Penn State-University Park is one, recording the summer through the Daily Collegian. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, through the Daily Illini, is another.
The NCAA schedules championship rounds for spring sports including baseball, lacrosse, rowing, softball and track and field on campuses after the academic year is over. If you’re a fan, take in the sport and a campus visit, especially in the surrounding community.
While their numbers are declining, some schools still operate on quarter systems where the academic year does not end until late June. Seven of the nine University of California campuses work on quarter systems as do Santa Clara University and Stanford University. Further east, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is another school that has such a calendar.
College visits, while time-consuming, are the best way to learn if a campus and community are your best fit. Given the costs of a college education, they are well worth the investment. But you also want to get the best possible picture of a school, whether you come in the fall, spring or summer.
An independent college and graduate school admissions advisor based in Central New Jersey, Stuart Nachbar blogs on higher education at EducatedQuest.com. For more about his writing and services, contact him at email@example.com