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Summer college visits: are they a do or a don’t? Summer tends to be a convenient time for families to hit the road and check out colleges, especially since schedules are more flexible. But colleges also empty out considerably over the summer—undergrads tend to go back home and faculty may be away on research trips. Colleges definitely have a different vibe over the summer. But college visits are an important aspect of the college application process, and summer visits can be fruitful, as long as families bear in mind that there is a difference between summer and academic year visits. Following are some tips for getting the most out of summer college visits.

Let them know you’re coming

Make sure to get in touch with the admissions office. The staff can be extremely helpful in helping would-be students plan their visits.

School’s out for summer?

Check to see if schools have summer sessions (undergrads taking classes for credit, not summer programs offered for high school students). While most colleges empty out over the summer, making it difficult to meet with current students and sit in on classes, many colleges do offer summer sessions. If so, try to visit during the summer term.

Ask the admissions office if students are willing to receive emails from potential applicants

Consult the admissions office to see if it is possible to arrange to speak with students attending summer session and/or sit in on a class. Students can also ask admissions officers whether there are any undergraduates they might be able to correspond with over email/social media. While conversations in person with current students are the best option by far, emailing current students with some questions can be a good option for the time being.

Chat up the admissions officers

Even if schools don’t offer summer terms, however, campus visits can give students information about classes, professors, requirements, special opportunities for undergraduates and more. Admissions officers will be happy to speak with students about what makes their colleges unique. As with any other college visit, it is a good idea for students and their parents to do some reconnaissance before they go and formulate thoughtful questions to ask admissions officers. School websites are good places to find out basic facts about the school, and students can ask for more details about programs once they are on campus. Students can also speak to admissions officers about their specific interests (academic, extracurricular, study abroad, etc.) and ask about specific ways to pursue those interests on campus. Be sure to email the admissions office beforehand to arrange an appointment.

Take the college tours

Students can also go on tours over the summer. Tours will allow students to see important parts of campus as well as give students a sense of what the university is most proud of. Be sure to double-check summer tour schedules with the admissions office before arriving on campus.

The bottom line

Summer college visits are convenient and can be great sources of information as they narrow down college visits before students apply. However, it is important to bear in mind that colleges are different places over the summer. Down the road, if a student is considering whether or not to attend a college s/he visited during the summer, s/he should definitely return to campus during the academic year to speak with current students, sit in on classes, meet faculty, spend a night in the dorms, etc. But while students are still figuring out where to apply, summer visits are valuable for gaining information and convenient, to boot!

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