Making the Most of Your Summer Campus Visits

by Stephanie Thurrott

It’s finally summer and school is officially out of session. While you may be planning to spend your days relaxing, or maybe studying for the ACT and SAT, this is actually the perfect time of year to visit college campuses.

During summertime, you likely have more flexibility than you do during the school year. Without homework and extracurricular activities occupying your schedule, you can devote your time and energy to campus visits. Here’s why you should take advantage of this opportunity—and some advice around how to make the most of each visit.

The Benefit of Visiting Different Campuses

You might have an idea of what your top schools are, but visiting their campuses can help you learn more about each school. Walking around the quad and through academic buildings, checking out the dining hall, seeing dorm rooms, and meeting current students can all give you a feel for the campus’s culture and whether it might be a good fit for you.

Plus, visiting campus shows the school that you’re interested, which could benefit you during the admissions process. In a 2018 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, more than one-third of the colleges surveyed reported that a demonstrated interest is an important factor in freshman admissions decisions.

Best of all, some colleges begin accepting applications as early as August 1—so if a school makes your short list, you might be able to apply immediately after visiting!

6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Campus Visits

When exploring the grounds of your top schools, it’s important to take full advantage. Here are six tips for making the most of your campus visits:

1. Make a plan to visit campuses near and far. It’s a good idea to first visit the schools that are closest to where you live. Most colleges and universities list available tours, information sessions, and open houses on their websites. Schedule a day and time that works well for you.

For schools that are farther away, you might be able to visit a few in the same trip. Map the best route between them, keeping in mind when tours and information sessions are available. It’s difficult to see more than two schools in the same day—even if they’re close together—so give yourself enough time.

If a school you’re interested in doesn’t offer tours that work with your schedule, ask if you can schedule a personalized tour time or you can usually explore the campus on your own. Check the admissions website for a “self-guided tour” or just wander around.

2. Build in extra time. It’s important to give yourself ample time to travel to each campus and to explore. At an urban school or large university, you might have to factor in time to walk from the parking area to the admissions office. You may also want to add time to account for traffic, or in case you get lost. Once you arrive, there might be a check-in process or a form to fill out. And don’t forget to build in time for a bathroom break after a long drive!

Before or after your official tour, give yourself time to explore the campus on your own. See if you can eat in the dining hall. Ask students (other than your tour guide) what they like—and don’t like—about the school. Schedule a time to talk with a faculty member, if possible. This will help you decide whether you could spend a few years there.

3. Explore the surrounding area. It’s also wise to take a walk or drive beyond campus. Think about the surrounding city or town. Where do students shop and eat out? What do they do for fun? Does the surrounding area feel safe? Would you want to live there?

4. Take notes (and photos). Every school will feel unique when you’re there, but they may blur together later. This is common! Bringing a notebook or using your phone to jot down what stands out in your mind can go a long way when you’re deliberating between college choices.

5. Meet your admissions counselor and ask questions. Your campus tour and information session can provide a lot of insight, but if you’re able to schedule an interview with your admissions counselor, you should. If not, ask if you can simply introduce yourself while you’re there.

Whether you meet a member of the admissions department or you only get to talk to your tour guide, you should ask a few questions based on your interests. Your questions can vary, but you might consider asking:

  • What percent of students graduate in four years?
  • How many students live on campus vs. off campus?
  • What health and safety support services are available?
  • How selective are admissions for my major?
  • What opportunities are available for co-ops or internships?
  • Can I talk to a professor?

6. Use your imagination. It’s summer, so the campus is likely emptier than usual and the weather might be different than it will be during the academic year. For these reasons, it’s important to use your imagination when trying to picture yourself living there. Don’t rule out a school because it feels “too quiet” or was “too hot.” Keep an open mind, and maybe you’ll visit again as an accepted student!

Interested in attending Azusa Pacific University? Schedule a tour today to get a glimpse of life on campus.