June 5, 2013
“School’s Out for Summer”: Tips for Visiting Colleges During Summer Break
Summer is finally here! Or it will be soon for many high school students around the country. It’s finally time to relax a little bit from the challenges of AP courses, balancing the demands of various extracurricular activities, and finding time to complete homework, spend time with your family, and also have a social life. Summer is a well-deserved time to recover and reflect on the past academic year.
Believe it or not, this is also a great opportunity for high school students to begin or continue their college search process. No, I’m not suggesting you spend your entire summer break working on your college essays (although spending some time brainstorming can’t hurt!). Visiting college campuses during the school year can often be difficult, which is why taking advantage of campus tours during summer break is a great excuse to combine a trip with a college visit!
If you do end up visiting colleges during your summer, here are some tips to get the most out of your experience:
- Register for an official campus visit. At USC, we encourage students to make a campus visit reservation online in order to guarantee their spot. Our campus visit programs are often filled to capacity, so it’s important to reserve early for you and any guests that might accompany you. Many colleges have some type of campus visit registration process on their website or you can also call their office.
- Do some research! Before you spend hours on an unfamiliar college campus, do some basic research. Does this college have academic majors you’re interested in? Where is the campus located? You’re not expected to have all the answers prior to stepping foot on campus, but it’s helpful to come in with a general understanding of the school you will be touring. This will also help you think of some questions you can get answered during your visit.
- Explore the campus and surrounding areas on your own. The formal campus visit programs that colleges offer can seem all-encompassing, but it can be beneficial to wander around on your own. Eat a meal in the student cafeteria. Sit on a bench and observe how students interact with each other on campus. Visit the bookstore. Check out any cafes near campus where you might spend time studying or working on group projects. Sit in on a class, if it’s available. Some campuses can provide you with a list of classes that day that you can observe. Other colleges may need to contact professors in advance to get permission for prospective students to sit in on that class. When you make your campus visit registration, talk with someone at that college to see if this is a possibility.
- Interact with current students. These are the people you will be sitting next to in class, studying with, and perhaps socializing during your 4 years. It’s important to get a sense of how current students feel about the college and how their experience has been thus far. Are they happy? Do they feel supported by the school and their professors? Do they feel challenged academically yet still have time to have a balance between work and play? Whatever questions are important to you in regards to the student experience, ask away. Being able to visualize yourself in college is one thing; being able to visualize yourself being comfortable, happy, and successful at a specific college is another.
Many colleges will not be as busy during the summer as they are during the school year since the majority of students are typically not attending classes or even living on campus, so you may not always have the option to interact with students, observe a class, etc. during the summer months. If you visit a campus during the summer and fall in love with it, consider coming back to campus at a later date so you can feel the campus energy during the hustle and bustle of a school day.
Even if your summer plans don’t include college visits, you can still spend some time getting more information online. Take time to explore the photos and video tours provided online for individual colleges. Check out what other prospective students are asking about on the college’s Facebook page. And use resources like this admission blog to your benefit, whether it’s simply to get more information or to ask specific questions. That’s what we’re here for!
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