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Summer Vacation + College Tour

A double-duty family trip



Anya Nagle, 17, wants to study nursing at college, and she’d like to go somewhere warm. The junior at Eastern High School is also OK moving a fair distance from her Voorhees, NJ home. So along with mom Betty, dad Curt and big brother Erich, she’s touring four schools in Florida this July, as part of the family’s week-long summer vacation.

“I think she’s going to be that kid who will walk onto the campus, feel comfortable, see something that turns her top — and that’s going to be the college she chooses,” says Betty. 

The Nagles’ plan is to visit the campuses in the early part of the week, then use the last few days for pure relaxation. “It will be nice to go to the beach, and if we can get something for Anya out of it, all the better,” Betty continues. “It’s a win-win no matter what.”

The college tour 

Combining college visits with summer vacations are gaining popularity, and rightly so, says Jean Hedrich, director of guidance at Mt. Pleasant High School in Wilmington, DE, especially with kids who may be less than communicative normally. “It bonds the family more and opens dialogue between parents and teenagers,” she notes. 

Check the university’s website for instruction on how to register for visits (typically found on the admissions page). A campus visit, including a tour, usually takes two to four hours, so plan accordingly. When you set up the tour, inquire about other activities your child may be able to join, such as a panel with currently enrolled students or a dorm sleepover.

“An overnight is a valuable way to gain real insight into the culture and atmosphere of the college,” says Tania Castaneda, Rutgers University’s director of recruitment and enrollment of undergraduate admissions. But they fill up fast, especially in the summer when there are fewer students living on campus.

Many schools offer a variety of programs that can be mixed and matched to accommodate a vacation schedule. Options like bus tours, walking tours, general or special topic information sessions all vary in length. Castaneda also advises that you pad time in for exploring the campus on your own afterward.

While summertime visitors may not see as many students or classes as they would during the fall or spring, just being on campus is beneficial, says Hedrich. “Lots of kids do virtual tours, but it’s never the same as being there.”

Don’t skimp on vacation

As important as the college visit can be, Hedrich urges families who come to campus during summer to tip the balance of their stay more to vacation than business. 

Make sure to plan your trip to a place you’ll enjoy visiting, not one that’s solely home to a college on your child’s wish list. Your rising senior might be interested in seeing the University of Pittsburgh, but there may not be enough to do in Steeltown to support a week’s stay there. 

You can also throw in a college visit as a leisurely add-on to your vacation. If, say, you’re going to Boston, why not stroll through Boston University’s city campus or Harvard’s ivy-covered site? 

Taking siblings along is another plus. Older brothers and sisters can share their college-visit experiences, and younger ones can start thinking about their own future goals. 

Visiting two schools during a week-long vacation is enough, says Hedrich. “Take a morning tour, and the rest of the day when you’re hanging out you can informally talk about it.”

Finally, “If your interest is piqued by a summer visit,” adds Castaneda, “you may want to return in the fall so your future college student can get a feel for the campus while it is at its liveliest.” 

Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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