Conventional wisdom has it that visiting and touring colleges during summer vacation is a smart, budget-conscious way to kill two birds with one collegiate stone. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Here are five reasons why:
- Colleges are serene in the summer. College campuses tend to be deserted during summer break and major holidays, so you won't get a good feel for what the school and, more importantly, the people are really like. The biggest, most important question a student should be asking himself on a college tour is, "Do I fit in here?" Neither of you will be able to answer that because that serene, pristine campus is going to feel very different when there are 30,000 more people bustling around it.
- Tours are scarce and faculty absent. You won't find twice-daily tours and easily reserved faculty tete-a-tetes during the summer months. Most of the faculty is on vacation, and tours are usually cut back to just a few a week. You can probably sit in on a summer school class, but it won't be the same. Summer school is a very small and different subset of the college experience.
- Students are hard to find. Even the most helpful campus tour guide has an inherent bias - he or she is paid by the college to recruit new students. So part of the goal on any college visit is to find regular students willing to chat about their experiences. During the school year, you'll find them in the student union, the dorms, the lecture halls, the quad and everywhere else. During the summer? See item #1.
- College tours are neither relaxing nor fun. A thorough college visit is an exhausting, multi-hour excursion, with a tight agenda and a list of critical questions to get through. So combining your family's holiday with a series of college tours is a sure fire way to wreck any sense of relaxation. You'll need a vacation from your vacation.
- Younger siblings will hate you. It's not fair to any sibling younger than the sophomore or junior year of high school. They will quickly tire of the endless tours and boring (to them, anyway) talking. And in case you were hoping for a twofer, they won't remember the particulars of this campus when it's time for them to apply, so you'll have to come back anyway. Better to send them off with your spouse to sightsee or splash at the motel pool, or not attempt it at all.