Get Out and Explore – Summer College Visits

Central Oregon has not had to endure a very tough winter this year– in fact, there were times this spring when it actually felt like summer. None-the-less, we all look forward to our summers and perhaps a trip or two throughout the Northwest or further south and east. All that to say that summer is a great time for high school students to visit prospective colleges and enlighten themselves about a potential future home.

Actual visits prove much more useful to students than virtual visits to carefully crafted websites (the sun always shining, smiling faces everywhere). By visiting several colleges students begin to define their general likes and dislikes which can be of great help in crafting a manageable list of schools where the student may ultimately apply. Try to include a sample of smaller schools as well as larger public institutions which might have research and/or graduate programs.

A few key hints on making the visits as worthwhile as possible:

  • Check in advance on the college website times for student led tours and sign up if required. It is important that the college knows that you are making the effort to visit their campus (it is called “demonstrated interest”).
  • Determine if the school offers on-site interviews (usually smaller liberal arts colleges) and sign up if available (for the great majority of students an interview helps you learn more about the college and for the college to learn about you).
  • Try to walk around inside of key facilities like the library, freshman dorms, science labs, and recreation center.
  • If you are interested in a specific discipline, see if you can meet with any available faculty members, or perhaps even sit in on a class (usually only during the regular school year).
  • Visit the nearest local city, town, or village to the school and get a feel for this “home away from home”.

A disadvantage of summer visits is that there may be minimal student activity, and thus the real feel of the school is missing. Some colleges, however, have very active summer sessions and the “vibe” is similar to the regular school year. If there are students around get up the gumption and randomly approach and ask students about their school and would they offer their pro’s and con’s – this can be a great way to get some inside scoop on the college.

After the visit be sure to make detailed notes on your visit as you may end up going to a number of colleges and your thoughts could prove instrumental in narrowing your focus.

College visits can be made as part of a family vacation (say you are going to Seafair Fleet Week in Seattle you could visit University of Washington, Seattle Pacific, and Seattle University and see three very different nearby schools in a fairly short time). Most of all have fun while you are becoming educated about specific colleges and about your personal preferences.