Summertime: Your best chance for campus visits
Now that summer is upon us and students have their plans locked in, make good use of your in-between time to travel to schools you are considering. You only need a few days, and a campus visit will help you decide if that’s where you’d like to be for 4 years and can be a significant factor in your obtaining an offer of admission.
Advantages of summer:
- Daylight continues to 9:30 p.m., great for driving.
- Not much chance of a snowstorm.
- You’re not worried about that exam/presentation/essay due right after the trip. You’re relaxed and your mind is fresh. In grade 12, you’ll be busier than you ever imagined.
- You’re less likely to have a cold or the flu.
- You won’t miss an SAT/ACT test date.
- Although the regular students may be away, most colleges have summer programs, so campus will not be empty.
- Admissions staff are on campus and will happily welcome you and review interesting programs for you.
- You’ll meet other traveling families from far and wide, and you can take advantage of valuable informal information-sharing with them.
- You can have a campus tour, easily walk around and see the dorms and the college town, enjoy a latté at an outdoor café, watch the passing parade, and get a real sense if you could see yourself there.
- Early decision/early action/priority applications must be finalized by November 1. A summer visit enables you to make that choice in time.
Your concerns: I want to attend a class not offered in summer. OR. I liked the campus but want to see things in action before I apply.
Answer: After an initial visit, you’ll know if that school is a contender. You can then return for a quick visit in the fall.
Advice: the wisest families do not restrict their college visits only to the most selective schools. If you’re dying to visit Harvard and MIT, include a few less fiercely competitive schools in the Boston area. We can help you with that.
Planning your visit: Minimum 2 weeks in advance, contact the school’s admissions office and sign up for an information session and campus tour. Opening hours will be on the college website, and look for discounts at local hotels and restaurants for college visitors. Ensure you fill out their contact card when you attend the session so they won’t forget you. Presenting a small box of maple sugar candies will not be a bribe and can help them remember you as the sweet Canadian. If admissions offices are closed on a Sunday, use that day for travel.
Sample questions to get you started:
1) What range of GPA’s or Ontario percentage averages and test scores do you look for?
2) What is the meal plan? What about special dietary preferences or needs?
3) Are their any distribution requirements or required courses?
4) Will I automatically have a roommate as a freshman?
5) Are there any single sex dorms?
6) What scholarships to you have for international students?
7) What is the average freshman class size? Faculty:student ratio?
8) What are your early decision or early action application dates and rules.
9) What student support do you offer for pre-med (pre-law, MBA, or other grad programs)?
10) What is the fraternity/sorority scene?
11) What policies do you have to ensure student safety?
According to your interests, you’ll soon think of many more questions.
Get the business cards of people you meet, and be sure to send them a thank you note or email. Use that opportunity to ask additional questions. If you fell madly in love with the school and will for sure be applying binding early decision, you can say so. If not, just show appreciation for their having taken time with you, and mention any features you enjoyed.
Do I need to prepare for an interview?
Chances are, there will be more than just your family present. But if you get a one-on-one opportunity with someone in admissions, you’ll likely find they are good talkers, keen to sell the school to YOU to encourage you to apply. It is not a selection interview. The Ivies and certain selective colleges, when they can find a willing alumnus living in your town, do offer a more probing interview in winter after you’ve applied, and you would prepare for that.
Most families use GPS’s, and don’t miss local early morning radio or TV road reports for traffic and construction updates. We’ve had luck asking hotel front desk staff for lesser-known routes they regularly use. A map can be useful too, if you’re comfortable using such an antiquity. Take photos, make notes, compare impressions with fellow travelers, have fun, and bon voyage!