Can I Visit a College while Participating in a High School Summer Program?
There are many summer programs for high school students that are held on college campuses. These pre-college programs are often designed to help students become more familiar with college life, develop a better understanding of academic opportunities and expectations in a higher education setting, and gain experience being on a campus. Two questions that sometimes arise as high school students are preparing to engage in the college admission process are: Do I need to do an official college visit if I am participating in a summer program on the campus? Can I do an official college visit while I am on the campus for a summer program?
College Visits – General Information
Before examining the way in which summer programs can connect with college visits, it may be useful to examine the significance of college visits as well as challenges that they may present. College visits can play an important role for students in helping them determine which colleges are good matches based upon their academic, social, and extracurricular goals and interests. While a lot of information about a college can now be found online (e.g. majors, admission factors, staff to student ratio, class sizes), visiting a college can bring all of this information together and enable students to gain more insight into factors such as the facilities, the surrounding community, the resources available for students, and the campus culture and climate. After a visit, students sometimes make comments such as “the college just felt right to me”, “I just didn’t feel comfortable at this college, or “I can really picture myself attending the university”.
Although college visits are very useful, it is often a challenge to pay for visits at institutions in different areas of the country. It can also be difficult to make college visits during the school year because of missing high school classes and activities. However, when visits are made outside of the academic year, it can be a bit more difficult to get “a feel” for the college because many current students are not on campus. As an alternative, more universities are now offering virtual college visits, which can be helpful. It can also be useful for students to visit a large, medium, and small college in their local area to get an idea of the atmosphere at these types of institutions. Based on the initial assessment of the size of a college, students may be able to target the types of colleges that they would like to visit that are further away. When families do visit colleges, they can try to go to more than one college in a day in an area. However, when visiting more than two colleges in a day, it can be difficult to keep the experiences from running together and remaining distinct.
The Importance of an Official College Beyond a Summer Program
Due to some of the challenges that may occur with college visits, there are questions that can arise about pre-college programs and visits. In general, gaining experience on a college’s campus can be helpful in finding out more about the institution and determining whether the college would be a good match. As a result, a student’s participation in a summer program at a college can be useful in learning more about a college and getting somewhat of a feel for whether the college would be a good fit. However, it would be difficult to substitute a summer program for an official college visit.
A summer program often has an area of focus (e.g. writing, STEM, business, the arts) and it often takes place at one or two locations on the campus. This can be very helpful, but it does not take the place of an official college visit. An official college visit generally provides an information session run by an admission counselor as well as a campus tour that takes students to important places on the campus. The visit is designed for prospective students and provides holistic information about the college, factors associated with the admission process, and ideas to help with the application process. The tour is often led by a current student and it enables prospective students to learn more about a variety of aspects pertaining to the college as a whole and significant locations on a campus. Depending on the college, there can also be other activities that are part of an official college visits that can be useful for students.
A student who is a participating in a summer program on a college’s campus can request to do an official visit just prior to the program beginning, sometime during the program, or just after the program concludes. Family members may be able join the student at the visit, particularly if it was just prior to or at the end of the program. This can enable a student to pair the official visit to the college with the summer program, but also to make the visit distinct. The visit would allow the student to gain the perspective of viewing the college as a potential post-secondary option and to learn about the admission process. If a student was participating in a summer program on a campus away from home, pairing the program with the visit would likely reduce the expense of going to make an official college visit. Typically, the student will need to contact the Office of Admission at the college to schedule an official visit with an information session, a campus tour, and other activities that may be available. A student’s experience in a summer program would still be valuable with regards to learning about the college, as it may allow for interactions with faculty members, meeting current students, and gaining insight into college major as well as programs of study.
One other consideration with regards to pairing a college visit with a summer program on a campus involves the difference between the college during the summer as opposed to during the academic year. There may be a different feel to being on the campus in the summer when the majority of the student body is away from the campus. This can be an issue regardless of the participation in a summer program, as many high school students visit colleges during the summer months to avoid missing school days. While visiting a college in the summer can present a different feel than during the academic year, it can be valuable. Generally, in the summer, students still have a chance to find out about the college from the admission office during the information session, go on a campus tour to visit important locations around the campus, visit classroom buildings, find out about academic resources, and more. While it may be more difficult, it is also possible for high school students to speak with current undergraduate students at the college to find out about why they chose to attend the school, what they most and least like about campus life, and the recommendations that they would have for incoming students. Some pre-college summer programs enable high school students to meet current undergraduates. This provides another opportunity to ask questions about the college and to get a student perspective. In addition, some students who have attended a summer program on the campus and completed an official college visit at the school, may be able to return if admitted prior to making a final commitment on which college to attend.