Last weekend, we took our middle daughter on her first official college visit. She is going to be a high school junior in the fall and she was anxious to kick off her college search. She had decided she wanted to do a summer college visit to Loyola University Chicago.
A summer college visit can be a useful step in the college search process if you do it for the right reasons. Summer college visits are helpful in the early stages of the college search, but are not very helpful when you are trying to narrow down to the final college choice.
Benefits of Summer College Visits
- You get to see what the campus looks like
- You don’t have to fight traffic on campus (car and/or foot)
- You get a feel for the size and layout of the campus
- The atmosphere is more relaxed
- Your family probably has greater availability for visits
- Tour groups are usually smaller
- The weather may be more conducive to a walk around campus
- You can check out the surrounding neighborhoods
Drawbacks of Summer College Visits
- You don’t experience the “feel” of the campus when school is in full swing
- There is not an opportunity for your student to sit in on classes
- Many department heads and others your student may be interested in talking to may not be around
- The only college students you get to interact with are the tour guides
- Many buildings may not be open for tours
- You probably won’t see a “lived in” dorm room. Schools usually just have a room set up with the basics to show for the tour.
Our visit to Loyola University Chicago included a full campus tour and an admissions presentation. There were probably 30 – 50 families or groups visiting that day. The school had plenty of tour guides and divided us up into small groups for the tour. It was our family along with another dad and son. The campus was beautiful. Of course, a sunny day in early June is a great time to visit a campus along the Lake Michigan shore in Chicago! Too bad Chicago weather is not like that all year! We went inside several buildings, but did not get to see a classroom or any actual study areas. We did see the student union and the inside of one of the dining halls. Loyola University Chicago is currently undergoing a lot of construction to renovate their fitness center and create more green space on campus. This, of course, does not have anything to do with the learning aspect of college. It is intended to make the student experience more enjoyable. You could easily debate whether this is an unnecessary cost, but colleges have tended to focus a lot on amenities the last few years to attract more students. One of the great things about Loyola is city access. Loyola has its own elevated (el) train stop offering easy access to the whole city of Chicago. In fact, tuition includes “free” el train and bus transportation throughout the city.
The admissions presentation did not drag on forever and was kept light and engaging. Overall, a great first visit for my daughter.
What was she able to learn from a summer college visit? Well, she did express concern that the campus might be too large for her. Loyola has about 10,000 undergraduates plus a couple thousand graduate students. She said she would need to visit again during the school year to determine whether the size worked for her. Classifying this as a medium-sized campus, she would now like to visit a large state school and a small campus for comparison.
The summer college visit can be a great opportunity early on in the college search process during a time of year when life doesn’t tend to be so hectic for your student and the rest of the family. Your student will probably be more relaxed and well-rested, able to give more attention to trying to picture himself or herself on campus. Just don’t expect too much from a summer college visit. Realize that you will probably be going back during the school year, unless your student rules out the school based on the initial look and feel.