Touring Campuses This Summer? 5 Tips for a Successful College Visit

If you plan to hit up some campus tours in between beach and road trips this summer, kudos to you. But don’t be discouraged if the campus of your dream college or university isn’t as busy as it would be during the fall or winter, two prime times for high schoolers to take tours and get a glimpse of life on campus. It’s all about adjusting your attitude during your summer tours, advises Risa Lewak, author of Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer: How to Survive the College Admissions Process Without Losing Your Mind.

“You won’t be soaking up the school’s ‘typical’ atmosphere, so students and parents need to focus their energies on soaking up different aspects of the campus,” says Lewak, a former pre-admissions counselor and recruiter at Hunter College in New York.

Look at the physical surroundings, summer classes/offerings, and the school’s vibe in the non-frenetic state compared to the traditional school year. And no matter when you visit, Lewak recommends jotting down things you do and don’t like about the school so you’ll remember when you get home and are applying for admission or making your college decision.

Here’s Lewak’s five tips for making the most of your summer college visit:

1. Chat it up with students.
Talk to those around you to get the lowdown on what life is like at the school in the summer and year-round. Since students tend to be more laid-back during the summer, you can seize the opportunity to have a longer conversation as compared to when school life is more stressful during the fall and spring semesters.

2. Embrace the town.
Summer is the time when most cities/college towns provide fun offerings like festivals, concerts, and recreational activities. For example, if you’re touring Cornell University during the summer, check out what’s happening in the town of Ithaca, NY to get a sense of what it’s like, Lewak says. If you don’t like the town, it could seriously impact your college experience. After all, students can’t live on campus alone!

3. Class is in… join ’em!
Ask to sit in on a summer class, but Lewak recommends that you make sure it’s with a professor who teaches during the regular academic year–many adjuncts are hired for the summer months only. While in the class, gauge the level of student participation (are they all on their laptops checking Facebook while the professor drones on?) and the style of the class, whether it’s a lecture or lab setting. Can you imagine yourself thriving in such an academic environment?

4. Take advantage of summer office hours.
Set up an interview with an admissions officer or representative to ask questions one on one. Since administrators often have more time on their hands during the summer, their schedules may be more flexible and accomodating, says Lewak.

5. Tell your parents to let you take the lead
Regardless of when you take the tour, remind your parents not to dominate the discussion during the campus tour or ask questions on your behalf. There’s a chance that their questions and comments could reflect poorly on you in the admissions process, Lewak says. Can anyone say “helicopter parents”?

There you have it… pack up your questions along with your bags this summer and head out to those campus tours prepared and passionate. Good luck!