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Summer can be good for college visits, too

Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

So, somehow the spring got away from you and you now find yourself feeling a little stressed and perhaps guilty that you haven’t visited more colleges on your student’s list.

Visiting colleges over the summer, while not ideal, is far better than not visiting at all. Holding off until the fall when college is in session sounds like a great idea, but it’s often difficult for students to miss classes and their extracurricular activities.

Compressing too many college visits into too short a time span ruins everyone’s experience. Most importantly, a rushed college visit doesn’t let the student wander around a campus on their own, talk to random students and form their own opinions.

How to make the most of summer campus visits:

•  Be prepared. Know your specific destination – what building you’re going to for the campus tour or the information session and which one is first. Also make sure you know where to park, if the parking is validated, etc. Allocate cushion-time so you’re not late or anxious.

•  Do your homework. Even before the visit, your student should be able to articulate why the college is of interest to them. Is it because they have a strong communications department, an extensive study abroad program, a great reputation for career placement?

•  Come armed with questions. Tailor your questions appropriately, keeping in mind whether you’re asking the student ambassador tour guide or the seasoned admissions professional. Don’t ask questions that can be answered on the college website or from a college guidebook.

Here are some good questions to ask:

Residential life

• Are freshmen integrated with upperclassmen or do they live separately?

• What percentage of sophomores/juniors/seniors live on campus?

• What is the average rent for off-campus housing? How close to campus is it?

• How many dining halls are there? What meal plan choices exist?

• Can you live off campus and still purchase a partial meal plan?

Academic life

• What is the average size of freshmen introductory classes (biology, English, psychology)?

• Are there weekly recitation/breakout sessions with a professor or teaching assistant?

• How likely is it that a freshman will receive his first choice of classes? Ask the tour guide, not the admissions representative, this question.

• How often do students meet with their advisors? What is required? What is the norm?

• How easy/difficult is it to switch majors?

Student life

• What clubs and activities are the most popular?

• How big a role does Greek life play on the campus?

• How often do students go away or go home on weekends?

• Is there enough activity on weekends to keep students engaged?

• How big a presence is sports? What kind of support do the sports teams receive from the students?

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.
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