4 Tips for Winter Break College Visits
For those traveling for the holidays, or maybe a family helping an older sibling move back home for winter break, stopping by a school of interest can be a fun way to break up the trip and help younger students see a college campus for the first time. While a winter break college visit isn’t as impactful as visiting while school is in session, it can help younger students get a better sense of what they’re looking for when building their balanced college list.
Between studying for the SAT, keeping up involvement in extracurricular activities, and maintaining grades, it can be hard to pencil in time to visit colleges. Given how important campus tours are for prospective applicants, scheduling visits during school breaks often seems like the most logical option for many families. While holiday-time tours are convenient, the admissions office is often closed and most of the students are gone – so it’s not an ideal time to get a true sense of whether a school is good fit for not. College visits are an immersive experience and applicants can benefit from observing currents students and getting a feel for campus life, which can be difficult to gauge over break. However, holiday college visits can still be impactful and eye-opening if students know what to do when they arrive. If you plan on stopping by a school during your holiday travels this winter, here are some tips for making the most of college visits when school is out of session.
Make a Roadmap
Regardless of the time of the year, planning is key to making the most of a college tour. While you may not be able to sign up for an information session or formal campus tour since many offices on campus will be closed, you can still create your own informal tour. Research buildings and events of interest – maybe there’s a basketball game you want to attend – and create your own “tour map.” Take notes as you walk through the campus and don’t be afraid to take a couple of pictures to help you remember your experience. Additionally, research off-campus spots you would like to visit, like local shops, restaurants, and other sites of interest in the community. Although these visits will not be registered and noted by the admissions office for demonstrated interest, an informal tour can be a great way for younger students to begin to explore local colleges. Then, if a student really enjoys his or her visit, they can plan a more robust tour when the college is back in session.
Go Beyond Campus
While walking the campus is certainly important, don’t forget to spend time in the surrounding area. Most students can expect to spend four years living in the town or city their college is located in, so it is important to choose a location you can see yourself thriving in. For this reason, it is best to visit colleges in a variety of different types of locations, such as suburban, rural, and urban, to get a better sense of what you like best. Even if classes are over when you are touring a college, it is likely that local businesses will be open, so be sure to pencil this in to your touring agenda.
Supplement Your Trip
College visits are just one component of school research; in order to compile a list of best-fit schools and prepare to answer supplement questions, it’s important to thoroughly research each college you are interested in. Supplement your winter break college visit experience by going on a virtual tour, which is often available on a university’s website. Additionally, follow a university on social media in order to stay up-to-date and learn about events on campus. Then, if you find yourself even more interested in this school after an informal winter break visit, you can plan a more comprehensive visit in the spring where you can actually see the campus in action!
Regardless of when you choose to visit, touring colleges can be extremely beneficial for students and families. If you are looking for extra guidance to help you make the most of each school visit, our team of admissions counselors can assist in planning college visits and helping students feel prepared before each trip.