Liz Hui, one of my colleagues in the Admissions Office, oversees a lot of the campus visit events. Incredibly organized, she has seen our office and our visitors through so many different kinds of visits: half-day programs, full-day open houses, overnight hosting programs, our admitted students events, high school tours, and many many more. Now she's turning her expertise over to you, so you can get as much as possible out of a summer college tour!
Ah, summer... yep, it's that time of year. School is officially out, friends' graduation parties are becoming fond memories, and the sun is shining late into the evening hours. Maybe you've just started a part-time or full-time job, maybe you're going to be headed to your favorite childhood camp as a counselor-in-training, or maybe...
You're going to be touring colleges. All. Summer.
...Or for at least a week.
Here in the Campus Visit Office, we have a unique perspective: year after year, we have watched countless families step onto campus in June, July, and August, hoping to learn what makes Oberlin special and get a feel for what it might be like to be a part of our academic and social community. We've met some families who seemed stressed out and exhausted, and we've met some who were absolutely having a blast. Given such a wide range of experiences, the Campus Visit staff has gotten together to offer you some tips that we hope will help make the summer road trip easier for you.
It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's the Welcome Team!
Tip #1: Timing, timing, timing. Most families pop on and off college campuses quickly, leaving just enough time for the campus tour and maybe the information session. This means that prospective students have to try to absorb the feel of a school in 1 to 2 hours... and, therefore, it means that colleges try to distill down the ethos of an institution into that amount of time as well. We're here to tell you that it's not easy! Instead, plan to give half a day to each institution, if possible. Some ideas of ways to further explore a community:
Ask if it's possible to complete an admissions interview.
Ask the receptionist or tour guide to recommend hot spots on campus to visit on your own (for Oberlin, it's the womb chairs, the CILC - there are cockatiels, people, cockatiels!, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, the AJLC - featuring the Living Machine, the Kohl building... you get the idea.)
While you're at it, pick up on the local flavor (heh) by asking for on-campus or just-off-campus dining recommendations - get to know the community by avoiding lunch at chain establishments.
Tip #2: Do your research and be sure to have realistic expectations about your visit. Many institutions, especially small ones like Oberlin, may not have summer classes in session. This means two things:
there will likely be very few students and faculty on campus for visitors to meet, and
the campus will likely look and feel a lot different than it does during the middle of fall or spring semester.
Many prospective students prospies believe that meeting faculty, observing a class, and chatting with students could be crucial to their college decision-making process; therefore, we highly recommend employing some strategic planning to make the best use of your summer. For some of the schools at the very top of your list, it might be worthwhile considering a visit during the academic year.
Questions upon questions upon questions!
The phrase "Visiting in the Summer" is surrounded by questions:
Am I just taking a tour, or will I want to observe a class or meet with faculty?
How much time will I want to spend on each campus?
Do my colleges offer summer class, or will they be somewhat empty?
Will I visit any schools more than once?
Do my colleges offer any specialized visit programs?
How much travel time will be involved?
Tip #3: Avoid burnout - mix work and play! Our Admissions staff routinely checks in with visitors, and one of our favorite questions to ask is how many colleges a family has visited in any given trip. The record, so far, is 22. While we don't necessarily recommend visiting quite that many schools at once (and certainly don't recommend that anyone try to break that record), there are a few ways for families to experience a more enjoyable (or at least less stressful) college road trip.