Buying final-sale clothes without trying them on is ill-advised. So to is going through the application process without touring colleges. U.S. News & World, secondhand information from friends, and information packets can only tell you so much about a school. To give yourself, not only a three-dimensional experience of a university, but also a sense of what you want in a school in general, visiting is really the only way to go.
We know you’re busy. The thought of taking time off from school, extra-curriculars, or test-prep might give you some anxiety, but it’s just one of those critical elements. Unfortunately, summer vacation, spring break, or any other time when students across the country are out of school, is not the time.
Tour Guides Are Not Real People
Visiting a bunch of nice-looking LEED-certified buildings or a football stadium is all well and good if you’re just a tourist, but if you’re a prospective student of a university, we advise you to actually look at these places when they’re filled with people. A nicely-mowed quad is only going to tell you so much. Students, however, will tell you what you need to know.
We have our students actually go up to as many kids as possible on their college visit and talk to them. And we don’t mean the tour-guides. Sure, schools offer tours during the summer, but remember, at the end of the day, schools are multi-billion dollar businesses. They have handpicked tour guides and points on a map that sell the school.
While I was at Penn I tried to be a tour guide. I thought it would be fun to walk around and tell people about the school. I made it to the final round of interviewing and was asked questions as if I was the tour guide. Ultimately I was too honest with my critique of the school and they said I wouldn’t sell the school enough.
If you want a student’s honest opinion on Greek life, mental health, the social scene, the hardest classes, the caliber of various majors, and the food at the dining hall, the tour guides are not the ones to rely on. They are going to paint a very glossy picture. But they are just about the only ones there in the summer, though.
Some Summer Schoolers Are Not Real People Either
You might be thinking, “but what about the summer school kids? I can talk to them!” In case you haven’t been tracking our blog, we often advise our students to spend part of their summer taking various academic programs at prestigious universities. TKG students aren’t the only ones taking classes. Throughout the summer, universities fill their gaps in housing rent with scores of high schoolers looking to gain a competitive edge on the resume. If you visit during the summer, the odds are, you’re not going to feel like you’re on a college campus. You’re going to feel like you’re visiting a boarding school. Touring colleges is a waste of time if you don’t actually get a feel for what the campuses are like.
Some Summer Schoolers Are Not Your Kind of People
Most college students leave to do other things during the summer. Inevitably, a small population will stick around to take classes or internships, or just hang out. Who ends up staying is usually a hodgepodge of people from various cross-sections of campus culture and not a true representation of the school’s student body. While we’re sure some cool and interesting students stick around for the summer, the kind of people you would normally want to hang out with might be home.
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