We recently had a discussion with two of our college admissions consultants, Dr. Cleo Leung and Nancy Peterson, in regards to the importance of college visits.

Q: How important is the college visit to students trying to make a decision?

CL: If it’s possible, try and visit the campuses of the schools you are considering. Seeing the size of the school, the housing or dormitories, classrooms, and other facilities can help you determine if the school is a good fit for you.

Q: Summer seems to be the best time to go for a lot of prospective students. Would you agree?

CL: The feel of campus will be different than it is during the year.

NP: During the summer, college campuses are not always the bustling places of activity that they are from September until May. Summer is a wonderful time to take tours and complete interviews – if only to have these college admission tasks out of the way before the start of your senior year.

CL: Keep in mind there may not be as many students present, or there may be physical renovations going on, or summer school, et cetera. Keep that in mind. And don’t limit yourself to just passive observation. You have to ask questions, too.

Q: And those would be?

NP: ‘Who are the students I’m seeing walking across campus?’ Are they high school students attending a summer program, or are they visiting students from another college? Or are they full-time degree candidates at the school who are taking advantage of a summer term?

CL: If you haven’t already read up on class size at the school, you can ask about class size you might encounter as a first year student. You might also ask about the accessibility of instructors and the resources that will be available to you in terms of advising, sports – either varsity, JV, or intramural. Extracurricular activities and dining hall food are other topics to ask about.

NP: Right. Also, ask someone, ‘How much snow or rain does this area typically receive?’ Summer is filled with warm sunny days across the country. But be mindful that September until May might not bring the same kind of weather. It is easy to get wrapped up with the vision of yourself carrying a backpack across campus and hanging out at the benches outside of the student union in nice weather.

Q: Does it really matter about such trivial things such as weather or what types of students are about?

NP: Absolutely. The point I want to make is that the behavior that you’ll observe in people on campus in the summer may or may not be reflective of what you would see in students enrolled at the school during the academic year.

Q: What if you can’t make a campus visit to a school you’re considering?

CL: If it’s not possible to visit some of the schools you are considering, there are other ways to get the information you’ll need to make a decision about applying.

Q: Such as?

CL: College fairs can be a good resource. You can use them to meet with a representative of the school without having to travel to there. Often, an alumnus of the school will attend college fairs to help the admissions representative.

College admissions officers also schedule visits to individual schools each year. Call the college admissions office and see if a staff member is planning a visit to your school or area.

– Dr. Cleo Leung is a Harvard graduate and has been a volunteer admissions representative and interviewer for Harvard College undergraduate admissions.

– Nancy Peterson has over 15 years of college admissions committee experience and is the former Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Southern Methodist University.

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