The big summer campus tour: plan well and take time to explore
Summer is a great time to visit college campuses, but realize that this is when many other families will be touring campuses, too. So, when planning your trips, allot ample time in between colleges, not only for traveling and getting lost, but also for parking. Call in advance or check online for the most up-to-date tour, information session, and interview times. We recommend that you visit, at most, two colleges per day, allowing for time to explore. You may want to check out everything from the library, student center, and athletic facilities to the dining hall, labs, and even the surrounding area. Even without many of the students on campus, can you picture yourself living there for the next four years? While touring, always try to envision campus with students abuzz, because what you see in the summer is usually very different from what happens during the academic year. If you are going on vacation but had not planned to visit any colleges during the trip, we suggest that you try to stop by a college and just walk around or take an official tour. A spontaneous visit may surprisingly help you discover your dream school.
A few thoughts about summer programs ... and the greatest of summer pleasures
Here's a myth about college admissions: to get into a good school, you have to sign up for high-powered summer programs — the more exotic and expensive, the better. Yes, summer programs or classes on a college campus can be rewarding. Yes, community-service trips that take you overseas can be worthwhile. Yes, a summer internship can be fascinating. But traditional summer jobs — at the local gas station, diner, summer camp or community pool — can be just as valuable. Ditto with community service in your own hometown. So stay active and productive during the summer. But don't feel obligated to pile up "prestigious" activities just because you think they'll enrich your resume. On the specific question of whether it will help you get into a college if you do a summer program at that school: not necessarily. Participate in the program if it truly interests you. If you do participate, take advantage of your time on campus to learn more about the institution, its resources, its community, its ethos — and then reflect that knowledge on your application.
Finally, use those hours of summer freedom to read! Read while you're at the beach. Read during those long car rides during college visits. Follow your curiosity; follow your passions. Reading is the greatest of pleasures — and it's the best preparation for college. Avid readers tend to be good learners and skilled writers. They tend to be fun, interesting people, too.
Masland Educational Consulting