Spring and fall campus tours get all the glory, but for many students, there is no better time than summer to get to know a school. Visiting schools in summer can be the first step in the college search in your sophomore or junior year, or it can be among final steps for rising seniors narrowing their list of target schools as the application deadline approaches. No matter where you are in your search, college campus tours in summer might be the best option for a more relaxed and realistic exploration of the schools you’re considering.
Top 5 Reasons to Plan a Summer Campus Tour
5. You Have the Time
In the summer, you have no homework and no extracurriculars, so you don’t have to rush. Opt for spring break tours and you’ll have about a week to cram in every destination. You’re also less plagued with deadlines in summer, unlike late fall, when the clock is ticking on submitting your applications.
4. Your Tour Group Could Be Much Smaller
At large universities, tour groups often accommodate up to 100 people. Summer tours are typically smaller and a little more easygoing, allowing you to observe the architecture, the interaction of students, and the feel of the campus, as well as ask the tour guide more of the questions that matter most to you.
3. You Might Get One-on-One Time with an Admissions Officer
Spring is a busy time for college admissions staff members, when they’re making final decisions on next year’s incoming class. But summer often finds admission staff with a little more liberty to personally welcome visiting families. See whether you can schedule a short, casual appointment.
2. Your Budget Will Be Better Off
If you’re taking a family vacation in the summer, schedule it for double duty by adding a campus tour to your itinerary. If you don’t have the budget to visit far-away schools, plan road trips to campuses within driving distance of home or consider taking a train or bus for a daytrip. Wait to visit non-local schools until you’ve been accepted.
1. Your College Search Will Get Real Really Fast
Chemistry with a campus happens, or it doesn’t. A summer tour can give you clarity so you’re pinning your aspirations to the right schools. It also can solidify for you that this is happening — college is in your future. Having a vision (and some snapshots) of yourself on the campuses you loved can inspire you to be more disciplined academically and more responsible personally.
What You Need to Know About Summer Campus Tours
- They’re free. Schools do not charge for tours.
- They’re structured. The student guide will keep to a script and follow a standard route, usually ending with a group information session with financial aid or admissions staff. The whole experience usually takes two to three hours. Call about specialty tours for programs like honors college or student athletics.
- They’re for every college-bound student. You do not need to wait to apply or to be accepted before you schedule a summer tour. (In any case, summer tours do not coincide with decision deadlines in May.) You can tour any campus without the school requiring any further action on your part. It is a test-run, not a commitment.
- They might tip the scales. Some schools consider your campus tour to be an indication of your demonstrated interest, so if you’re serious about a school and can afford to visit, a summer tour might be a good way to get on admission’s radar.
Tips for Scheduling Your Summer Tour
- Register in advance. Summer tours can fill quickly, particularly before and after holidays, so always reserve your spot on the school’s online registration page.
- Create a checklist. Planning what you want to see outside of the tour, including the town’s cultural attractions, can help you limit information overload. If the football stadium is essential to you, or the physics lab, make sure those sites are on your list.
- Visit when school is in session. It might not be as bustling and lively as a visit during fall or spring, but if you plan your guided tour for a weekday when school is in its summer session, you’ll get a good taste of its campus life, with fewer distractions.
- Limit your daily schedule. Most colleges offer a morning tour and an afternoon session. Resist the temptation to crowd in a self-guided tour on a third campus. Tired touring is grumpy touring — not your best state of mind for making college decisions.
- Eat the lunch. If the school offers a meal ticket for the campus dining hall, accept it happily. Eating campus food, catching the vibe among students, and taking a moment to recharge will give you vital information about how you’d feel as a student there.
- Dress appropriately. The tours usually cover a lot of ground in summer heat, so wear walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lightweight, casual clothes.
- Be honest with yourself. Visit only the schools that appeal to you in multiple categories: academics, affordability, community, location, athletics, culture, reputation, selectivity, size, and opportunities for personal growth.
- Take notes and photos. Jot down important information and snap photos. When the time comes to apply, these details can jog your memory, helping you narrow your choices or add color to your admission essay.
- Sit in on a class. Not every summer tour can accommodate a classroom visit, but if the campus offers it, take a seat. Chat with the professor after class, too.
- Go virtual first. One click can lead you on a panoramic walk-through of almost any campus in the country, helping you decide which schools are a must-see in person. USF’s virtual tour offers a 360-degree view of our three sunny Tampa Bay campuses and friendly faces.
- Consider a self-guided tour. Student-led tours can be limited in summer, but you can follow a self-guided tour anytime. Many schools offer an app for walking tours.
- Ask questions. Questions about scholarships, financial aid, or obscure majors may not be easy for student guides to answer, but they can give you an insider’s opinion on topics essential to your decision, such as campus safety, living on campus versus off campus, and the best place for cheap pizza.
- Make it fun. The summer campus tour is an extraordinary opportunity for you and your family to connect and discuss your future, but it also should be a lot of fun. Turn your trip into an adventure, tucking campus tours in between beach days, nature hikes, theme parks, culinary explorations, family reunions, and big-city sightseeing.
Making the Most of a Summer Tour, Year by Year
Each summer of high school offers a distinct opportunity for you to connect with colleges that interest you.
- Wander your local campus. The summer after your first year of high school is a great time to do a walking tour of the college nearest home to sightsee and soak it all in.
- Enroll in a summer program. Take your tour to the next level with a pre-college program for high school students in the arts, academics, or sports, which can allow you to live in a residence hall for a week or more. To give you a first taste of college life, USF offers several pre-college summer programs.
- Check out all nearby schools. The summer after your second year of high school is the time to explore every campus within a daytrip from home, even if it’s just a quick walk-through.
- Book your first official tour. Touring your hometown or closest college sets a benchmark so you can compare target school pros and cons.
- Take advantage of diversity fly-in programs. Some colleges have programs that pay for high-achieving rising seniors from under-represented backgrounds to stay in a residence hall, attend classes, eat in the dining hall, and experience college life.
- Arrange on-campus interviews. Not every school requires a face-to-face conversation with an admissions officer, but it’s smart to arrange interviews if your top schools consider them part of their application package; plus, it gives you an opportunity to get to know campus before you send in your application in the fall.
- Tour once before orientation. If it’s in the budget, the summer after you graduate (but before you actually move in) is a good time to check out your new college. With fewer students on campus, the pace is slower, the stakes are lower, and you can get your bearings. By the time move-in day arrives, you’ll already know your way around.
We invite you to register online for USF’s campus tour. Our tours are led by Green and Gold Guides, students who love to share what they love most about this university. If you are unable to visit in person, check out our virtual tours. Questions about tours or enrollment? Contact us online or by phone at 813-974-3350.
About Leigh Perkins
Freelance marketing writer Leigh Brown Perkins firmly believes that building new skills and chasing new ideas should be a lifelong quest for all of us.