While you can research a school online or from afar, there’s no question that one of the best and most effective ways ways to gain a true understanding of a certain school is to visit in person — before you send in your application or commit to attending.


It can be difficult to visit colleges during the school year, especially when you’re dealing with attending high school 5 days per week, your homework load, your extracurriculars, prepping the SAT, community service hours, and more. Furthermore, spring and winter break aren’t always the ideal time to visit campus, since many college students go home during spring and winter break. Without students on campus, it will be much harder to get a sense of the environment while school is in session.


On the other hand, visiting campuses during the summer can be advantageous for many reasons. First, many high school students have more down time during the summer since high school is not in session. There is also the fact that many colleges have summer sessions—these programs may be small, but they can still help you get a glimpse of what campus life is like in comparison to winter or spring break. Read on to learn more about why you should do your college visits during the summer.



1. Location, Location, Location

Visiting campus can help you get a sense of your potential future school’s location. Think about where the campus is situated. Is it rural? Urban? Suburban? A college town? Are there lots of places to eat, shop, hang out? How do you feel walking around there?


You should also take time to think about how long it took to get there from home. Was it a plane, train, or car ride away? How long was the trip? How did the journey feel to you? How would you manage the journey over holiday breaks? Does the campus feel too far from home, or not far enough?


Weather is another very important aspect. Some students hate living in climates with long, cold winters, and other students despise warm, balmy weather. What is the climate like at the campus you’re visiting? Be sure to keep in mind that it is the summer, so the weather will be a little different than it is during the school year, which, in college, typically runs from late August to early May.



2. Campus Vibes

Be sure to get a feel for the general “vibe” on campus. What sense do you get from the students/faculty while you’re there? What are the students like? What to they talk about and how do they talk about it? Do they travel in packs, or are they alone? How are they dressed? Do you think that these are people you could get along with in college?


You should also try to get a sense of the campus as a whole—what is the student body like? Are they relaxed, stressed, competitive, supportive? You might be able to get a deeper understanding of this by sitting in on classes, or visiting dining halls & residence halls. Keep in mind, though, that your options to do these things might be limited because it’s the summer—what you’re able to see, experience, and evaluate will depend on a variety of factors, including whether or not summer classes are in session.


For this reason, it might also beneficial to visit during the summer to see what college life is like when classes aren’t in session, given that things aren’t as busy—you can see what life is like there year-round!

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3. Student Body

Talking to students is one of the best ways to find out more about a given school, especially because they can address your questions and concerns. Again, it’s important to keep in mind that there might be limited access to students because it’s the summer.


Most schools will have students employed as summer tour guides, though, so try to use your tour guide as a resource as much as possible. Ask questions during and after your college tour— you may even want to offer to buy them coffee after the tour in exchange for hearing about their experience as a student!

You should try to stay overnight in the residence halls if at all possible, and eat at the dining halls if they are open. Just try to come in contact with students as much as you can while you’re there, as this will give you the truest sense of a school’s student body.



4. College Life

Visiting college campuses in the summer is a great way to ease yourself in to life on a college campus. It can be scary and hard to think of yourself as independent and on your own at college, but actually going to a real college campus and experiencing life there can help you begin to ease these some of these fears.


While you’re there on campus, think about how each of the students you are seeing walking around now was once a confused high schooler who shared some of your worries and reservations. All of them have adjusted to college life, and soon, you will too.


Try to find out the campus “hang out spots” and visit them—think about popular restaurants, cafes, bookstores, study areas—essentially, anywhere that local students like to hang out! It can be helpful (and very exciting) to experience life from the perspective of a college student, if only for one ephemeral summer afternoon!



5. Deciding Before App Season

If you’re a rising senior who is getting ready to apply to college, you might feel conflicted about where to apply or even about how many schools you should apply to. Visiting campus(es) can help you narrow your search and determine which schools are and aren’t right for you. Especially if you are on the fence about applying somewhere, a campus visit can help you realize that you might like to attend the school — or it can dissuade you from trying to go somewhere that isn’t the right fit for you!




There are many benefits to summer campus visits, including the opportunity to experience college life and get a better understanding of a school’s “vibe”.


Visiting campus during the summer also gives you the opportunity to get excited about your future as a college student—after all, before you know it you’ll be drinking coffee and cramming for exams with all the rest of them!


For more information about campus visits, take a look at these blog posts:


How Can I Figure Out a School’s Culture Without Visiting the Campus?

How to Write a Successful “Why X School?” Essay Without Ever Having Visited the Campus

How to Make the Most of a Campus Visit

How Fly-In Programs Can Revolutionize Your College Search Process

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Devin Barricklow

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).
Devin Barricklow

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