For many rising high school seniors, gifted and nongifted alike, the summer between junior and senior years is the most convenient time to tour colleges. Although there are some drawbacks of visiting a college during the summer—for example, because fewer students are on campus, it may be difficult to get a true sense of the school’s atmosphere—there are still many benefits of summer visits. Because things are slower at colleges in the summer, tour guides may have more time to give extended tours, and admissions officers may be more available to speak with prospective students and their families. To make the most of the visit, prospective students should speak with faculty members and students, explore the surrounding town, and attend classes, if possible.
The New York Times, in its continued series on applying to college, provides both tips on making the most of college visits and guidelines for specific questions to ask while on campus. Additionally, the Times suggests other ways in which rising seniors should be preparing for college, such as getting an internship, preparing to retake the SAT or ACT, and beginning work on college essays. Many gifted students consider entering college early, and it is more common for gifted kids to take AP courses, for which they may receive college credit. These are issues that can be discussed in detail with admissions representatives, either during a visit or via phone or e-mail.
To narrow students’ lists of schools before visiting their top choices, or if money is an issue and students can’t travel to make in-person visits, there are many online resources (such as virtual campus tours) to help students investigate potential colleges’ campuses, support for incoming first-years, size, cost, academic life, course offerings, honors programs, student/faculty ratio, grading policies, and availability of financial aid. With some planning and organization, college-bound students can get a head start on the application process.