Summer is around the corner, and if you’ve got a high school student, it’s the perfect time to visit colleges. Whether your teen will be headed into junior year—a pivotal time in the college research journey—or is earlier or later in high school, college tours are eye-opening, insightful and very worthwhile.
Make your travel arrangements now to hit the most important colleges on your teen’s list. Once you’ve got an itinerary, plan ahead! Follow Huntington’s seven tips to make the most of summer college visits:
Make a list of questions. Before your trip, your teen should take the time to develop a list of questions she has about a college and a checklist of areas on campus that she definitely wants to visit. Questions of students might focus on campus life, residence hall life, what led students to choose that college and what they enjoy about it (and anything they would change if they could). Questions of professors and staff should focus on information that isn’t readily available on the website.
Take a guided tour. You and your teen absolutely should wander around campus on your own, but a guided tour is also time well spent. A guide might be a current student who can show you notable buildings and places on campus, give some insight what classes and campus life are really like, share some of the college’s history and points of academic pride, and answer your teen’s questions. Over summer, a guided tour might give you access to resources or buildings that are otherwise closed to the general visitor.
Sit in on a class. If possible, teens should sit in on a class or two—ideally both a larger lecture and a smaller class. This is a great opportunity to see what college classes are really like, how professors teach, and how students learn and participate. Just as important, seeing classes in action can help guide students toward the colleges that would fit them best. If a large lecture hall scares your teen, maybe a smaller college that doesn’t have any large classes (even for general education classes) will be a better fit.
Talk with a professor or two. If your teen has the chance to schedule a meeting with a professor—especially one in the field of study in which he’s interested, he should. This will give your teen a chance to learn more about opportunities for undergraduate students in the major and ask pertinent questions about a program’s reputation and strengths.
Check out the residence halls. The dorms will give your teen a peek into day-to-day student life. It’s a great way to see what the living quarters, cafeteria and bathrooms look like, and it’s also an ideal chance to talk with any students who are living on campus over summer about what they enjoy about campus living and the college overall.
Contact each college to reserve tours and information sessions. At many colleges and universities, summer is a prime visiting time for high school students. If you want to do any of the above, make sure you register early, as tours and information sessions are likely capped at a certain number of families and reserving one-on-one time with professors will need to be set up in advance.
Record takeaways right away. As soon as you finish a college visit, your teen should get out the laptop or notebook and record all observations: any feelings about campus and the different buildings visited as well as all impressions of professors, staff and students. This is especially important if you’re visiting more than one college during your trip, as you don’t want them to blend together. These notes will come in useful later on when the time to apply draws nearer.
An in-person visit is the best way to get a feel for a college’s campus, students, programs and overall atmosphere. It can help your teen rule out schools that don’t feel like a good fit and motivate your teen to assemble a stellar application package for those she’s excited about. Plan ahead to get the most out of these visits, which will help your teen make a smart college decision.