Sunscreening those Summer College Visits

What's Your College Visit SPF What's your college visit SPF?

You wouldn't go out into the sun without wearing sunscreen, right? Likewise, you shouldn't choose a college without visiting it first. Just as sunscreen protects your skin from getting burned, a campus visit can protect you from making an uninformed decision when it comes to applying to college.

While it's always best to visit a campus while classes are in session, a summer visit can also be revealing and not just in terms of the number of summer co-eds sunbathing.

College admissions expert Edward B. Fiske recommends that you keep in mind that the people you see frolicking on a college campus in summer may not even be college students.

He offers these great suggestions on how to get the most from your summer college visit beginning with using a summertime tour to lay the groundwork for the college
selection process that follows in the fall.

Tips for Students:

1.)   Be thoughtful. Choosing a college is actually the first step in your college education, so as the trip approaches do some hard thinking about what is most important to you in a college. Once you have settled on some criteria, make a list of the questions you want answered and take notes on how the various schools compare on key points.

2.)   Make the most of the campus tour. It will be led by a student, though by no means a typical one. The smiling, affable, oh-so-polite representatives that schools recruit as tour guides can lay it on pretty thick, but they do offer one student’s perspective on the college. So engage them in conversation. Unfortunately most high school students develop a sudden case of laryngitis during campus tours. Why let Mom or Dad have all the fun?

3.)   Assert your independence. Once the tour is over take some time to wander. Check out the dining halls, peeling paints (a hint of financial problems), new construction (a sign of financial health), lecture halls, and dorm rooms.

4.)   Ask lots of questions. Push the tour guide hard on any questions that occur to you, and then compare his or her responses with those of other students you meet. Some good questions to ask include: who will teach me next year (faculty or graduate students), how big are freshman classes and what are the school’s biggest drawbacks?

5.)   Take notes. Be sure to get your thoughts down on paper while they are still fresh in your mind. Note all the particulars about the academic programs and facilities, but also remember the big picture. Can you see yourself as a student at this place? Above all, trust your instincts.


Edward B. Fiske served for 17 years as Education Editor of the New York Times, during which time he realized that college-bound students and their families needed better information on which to base their educational choices. He wrote the Fiske Guide to Colleges to help them. Fiske is also the author of Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College and Fiske Countdown to College: 41 To-Do Lists and a Plan for Every Year of High School. [affiliate links]