Spring break is considered the optimal time for campus visits.
Parents who are thinking ahead, (parents of rising sophomores and juniors) and parents who are playing catch-up (parents of rising seniors), frequently ask me if it is worth the time and money to visit colleges over the summer.
There’s no denying that visiting colleges is expensive. First there is the time off from work when you could be at the beach, and then there are all of the other associated expenses depending on where you’re going and how long you’re planning to be away: flights/car rentals/gasoline/tolls, hotels, meals, evening entertainment and of course the requisite sweatshirt ($50) from every college you visit. It adds up very quickly.
My recommendation is that long-distance trips over the summer be done as a small component of an existing family vacation, or that the campus visits be dedicated trips with one parent and the child, focused on their college search.
Pros of summer campus visits
• Less stress of summer: The pace of summer generally permits families to spend more time at each visit where they feel they can get to know the college, the campus and the community a little bit better.
• Less stress in the fall: The more you can do over the summer, the less anxiety students will feel in the fall. Students can fine-tune their college lists over the summer and be both confident in their list and a step ahead of many students who wait until the fall of their senior year to begin the process.
• Greater accessibility: It’s easier to find the time to meet with a professor and/or a coach or adviser of a club or extracurricular activity. Talk to a staff member from the Study Abroad Office or the Career Center to give you some perspective on the range of opportunities. Most importantly, sit down with some students and ask direct questions such as: “Where else did you apply?” “Why did you choose to come here?” “What’s one thing you would change?”
• Parking: Sounds like a ridiculous item to consider, but until you’ve hunted anxiously for a parking space believing you’re about to miss the campus tour you can’t appreciate the convenience of easier parking.
Cons of summer visits
• Not the real thing. Some colleges are ghost towns during the summer with limited hours, closed buildings, etc. You’re not going to get the feel of the activity on the quad and the campus “vibe” during the summer.
• Construction: It’s everywhere and can give you a false or negative sense of a campus.
While summer may not be the ideal time to visit it is frequently the most practical time for busy families.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com