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Summertime College Visits:  Advice From Our Colleagues in College Admissions

Posted by Lauren Boucher, Associate Director of College Counseling on May 4, 2021 12:32:01 PM

It’s the time of year when I start asking the juniors I work with what their plans are for the summer.  Invariably, a part of the conversation is about if they’re able to make time to visit at least a few of the colleges on their list.  This summer, though, things are a little tricky and require families to make sure they do their homework and create a careful plan.  

A06I4929Once a family has decided when they want to visit colleges, the next step is to decide which part of the country is a priority.  From there, consider which colleges you want to visit, but even before that, begin with a college’s website.  Jesse Monroe, assistant director of admission at American University in Washington, DC, shared the following advice, “We are planning to continue to offer in-person tours throughout the summer, however the tours are only that—a tour. My advice for families is to attend one of our virtual information sessions prior to the tour. We offer several each week that they can sign up for on our website. Attending that session prior to being on campus will allow them to make sure all of their questions are answered from our side of things and then spend their time getting a sense of the campus/student perspective.”  On top of the advice that Jesse offered, the follow-up is to be sure to register for an in-person tour well in advance of a visit to the university.  Being boxed out of a visit spot will likely be common this summer given that colleges and universities are proceeding with caution about the number of visitors they intend to allow on campus at any one time.  What does that mean?  Be your own best travel agent -- plan early, following through with the details so that you have the best experience possible.  

If your family’s plan is to head west, the advice remains the same: Check the college or university’s website before you make plans to hop on a plane.  Craig Dionne, Northeast Regional Director of Admission at the University of Denver, said that while their campus has not yet opened its doors for visits, they did manage to sneak in three select Saturdays for admitted students to check out their campus.  He said, “I do imagine that during May we will have something in place for those rising seniors who want to visit.  It will likely be a scaled down version of our normal tours.  Our students are in session until the first week of June so we may not allow guided tours until then. Families are welcome to visit the campus and follow the self-guided tour, which is available for download. The only downside is that they will not be allowed in any of the buildings.  If a visiting student takes the self-guided tour, I’d encourage them to ask random students random questions.  Finally, take the time to check out the neighborhood.”  

Eight hundred miles south of Denver you’ll find Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  Nathan Mawhirter is the admission counselor there who represents Tabor.  His advice to prospective students visiting campus is unique: “Dallas! Getting to campus is a good opportunity to understand the culture that surrounds and ultimately influences what students do after they graduate. I encourage prospective students and their families to just soak in all that Dallas has to offer, because it might break (or confirm) stereotypes of what it would be like to go to school in Texas.”  He said it’s important to see what’s happening in and around campus.  Where are students hanging out?  What are they eating?  “Food can be a good representation of community and a good way to see students in their natural habitat.”  Daily campus visits are available for prospective students Monday through Friday and consist of a fully-masked, one-hour walking tours led by current SMU students equipped with microphones to allow for safe distancing.  Reservations may be made by visiting the SMU Admissions “Visit” page.  

Santa Clara University, located south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley, has been hosting  socially-distanced tours for admitted students since March.  Becky Konowicz, dean of undergraduate admission, said that juniors and their families should call the admission office before making plans to visit: “...our planning is leading us to daily outdoor information sessions and tours later in May and June to accommodate larger volumes of visitors, but keep in mind that planning beyond the end of June is a challenge for us as we await further COVID-related guidance to keep safety at the forefront.”   Her advice to students is to ask three questions when they reach out to admission offices:

1) Is your campus open for visitors?; 

2) Are tours available, and if not, when do you anticipate offering tours again?; and

3) What are the safety restrictions in place for the local area?  

Back in Massachusetts, Sarah Belanger, assistant director of admission at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, offered clear guidance.  She said that students should participate in her two favorite online events:

1) The student-guided UMass visit, which is led by four current students online via Zoom.  The sessions have chat capabilities, which allow prospective students to ask questions. 

2) The Information Session will be led by admission counselors throughout the summer -- again, with student support and live chat capabilities. 

Sarah followed up to say, “Come to campus only if you feel safe. We will be starting some small-sized tours, so sign up early as spaces will fill up quickly. Plan ahead! Keep an eye on the website as updates will occur regularly.  At this point, we don’t have a clear idea what shape tours will take.  Currently, prospective students are not allowed in buildings, but we hope this restriction will lift for visitors as we inch our way into summer. My best advice is to be flexible and be patient.  Colleges are working hard to make the best decisions for their communities and your safety.”  Similar advice was offered by Pat McNally, the senior associate director of admission at Boston University who insisted that students check BU’s website regularly for updates about campus visits.  While BU is hoping to open for in-person visits this summer, the best place to begin is with online options and virtual in-person tours.  Showing up on campus in hopes that you’ll receive an in-person tour will lead to disappointment if families have not done their research.  While the Campus Visitor Center is currently closed, Pat suggests families take an iPhone tour.  A code is available to prospective students at the entrance to the Visitor Center.  

If Tabor juniors have questions about college visits, they should always feel free to reach out to any one of the college counselors for support.  

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Topics: College Counseling