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Articles / Applying to College / A Summer College Visit Resource

A Summer College Visit Resource

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | June 25, 2015
Although fall is probably the best time to visit colleges that are on your list for potential applications, summer is a good time too. Fall offers the advantage of having the student body present, which is one way to get the “vibe" of a college's atmosphere.

Summer, however, has its advantages. First of all, you won't have to be too concerned about finding travel days that match up with those of your parents. Of course, you may be involved in a full-time summer job, a college summer program, or even overseas travel, all of which could pose the same kinds of scheduling problems that the school year does.

In any case, as I often preach here in my blog, you have to trod the sodof any prospective college in order to make a worthy assessment of whether or not it's for you. So, for the sake of argument, let's assume that you will have at least some time this summer to visit a college or two or three (or more). How can you get a real-life, subjective briefing from others who have visited before you go? That's easy … just visit College Confidential's CampusVibe resource.

The introductory text on the CampusVibe home page tells you what to expect:

Welcome to CampusVibe – Visit Reports, Videos, Photos, and more!

It's easy, free and fun!

If you have completed a college-visit trip, we invite you to add your own visit report, post your campus photos, and share your videos to help other families plan their travel. EVERYONE, including current students and parents, is welcome to post photos and videos relevant to a school.

If you visited more than one college or university on the same trip, please complete a separate report for each school.

For those who are currently planning a trip, you can take advantage of the insights of those who have gone before you by browsing the list of schools and finding completed visit reports, videos and photos. Also, find school facts, contact information, and other useful stuff!

Here is the really valuable part of this resource:

>>For those who are currently planning a trip, [my emphasis]you can take advantage of the insights of those who have gone before you by browsing the list of schools and finding completed visit reports, videos and photos. Also, find school facts, contact information, and other useful stuff!<<

So, to give you a sample of what The Vibe can provide for you, here are some excerpts from information you can find on pages devoted to three schools that have a connection to my world: Dickinson College, Penn State University, and Princeton University.

Dickinson College

You'll find videos, pictures, and visit reports from those who have been there. Here's an idea of the visit reports you'll find for Dickinson:

– You can tell everyone in Admissions at Dickinson has been inculcated with the same message, although each person was able to transmit that message in their own, very relevant way. Gist of the sell: the entire student experience is informed by global engagement, sustainability, and “useful" liberal arts education. Admissions counselor was extremely effective – made me want to be part of the Dickinson experience!

Son liked the small-college feel, said the cafeteria food options were somewhat limited.

Student body was less diverse than expected. Kids seemed friendly and pretty normal, not as preppy as expected.

Hotel/Lodging Recommendations or Comments:

Stayed at Hampton inn Carlisle. About 10 mins from campus. Great rooms – fridge, microwave, lap desk, free breakfast and cookies.

– This was a second visit for an admitted student trying to make a final decision. She met with a professor, and we took a tour and had lunch with a student. During lunch several other students came over and joined us and answered questions, so that was very interesting. Several of the students we talked to came from far enough away that they had to fly to school, and one of them indicated that this was an issue for her, that she had had problems with getting back and forth and missed not being able to get home more often.

When asked what they didn't like about Dickinson, one student replied that the food was an issue, and on the day that we were there the selections weren't great. But they were at least average for college food, and there are enough options on campus to get by. We saw lots of students with brown bag “grab 'n go" lunches sitting outside on the grass since it was a nice day.

– Carlisle PA is a very cute town – and was bustling on the afternoon of our visit. The limestone buildings at Dickinson are pretty from the outside. We were impressed by the library, the new science building and the dorm room. Some other spaces that were less impressive were the athletic area, the HUB and the common areas of the dorm. Messages all around campus remind visitors that Dickinson is looking to improve it's image/raise it's admissions standards. There are constant reminders of the goal to become the most globally connected liberal arts college. It was nice to visit in the summer and see life around campus, even though they were not college kids. The dining hall & bookstore were closed when we toured, but you can tell that this school is bursting with school spirit by peeking in the windows.

Penn State – University Park

– All I would say is that your student needs to be self-motivated and self-directed here. It takes a lot of classes before you know any one professor or TA, and most of the freshman year you are taking “Gen. Eds" in halls with 100-300 others. There's not a lot of personal interaction with faculty, but the education is top notch and the connections are unparalleled

Hotel/Lodging Recommendations or Comments:Stay at Homewood Suites on College, or at the Ramada.

Dining/Restaurant Recommendations or Comments:

Everyone should eat at the Corner Room, or Cozy Thai, or Green Bowl

Other Comments (Transportation, local attractions, parking, etc.):

Everything is walkable if you are not pressed for time. On Campuses buses run on a loop

– They don't call it “Happy Valley" for nothing. And that football stadium–the biggest in the country now, even bigger than Michigan's “Big House." It is a sight to behold. It took my breath away, and I'm not a huge college football fan.Great campus. Brand new law school building under construction. Lots to do in University Park and State College (the town). Food, fun, football, and parties at the state's flagship university. An excellent cost-effective education at a nationally recognized institution.

Nothing to see outside of University Park and State College except woods and boondocks, but you'll never need to leave away. You may never want to leave.

– We drove up to Penn State early in the morning, which is slightly over a 3 hour trip. The mountain/hllls are quite beautiful. I get the feeling that winter trips will be a bit challenging.We utilized the free and highly convenient bus transportation on campus, after parking in lot 44. We met with premed department first thing in the morning. Afterwards we met with college recruiting. Both people were very nice. The pre-tour presentation was a bit long and somewhat redundant. They showed students stories that tended to repeat. They didn't show any out-of-state student stories. They show one out-of-state parent story, but none from a student perspective.

The tour was fast moving and covered a good amount of territory. Both tour guides were friendly. We visited one of the dorms, a student union, and a typical classroom. The tour ended with a complementary lunch. The cafeteria was ok, but I definitely have experienced better food.

During the visit we definitely got the impression that football and Joe Paterno are a big part of the university. We were told if you are not a football fan prior to attending the university, you'll be one by the end.

Princeton University– I visited during my sister's freshman year to help her move in and also during her graduation. Many of the football players were more than happy to help her move into her dorm, which was the beginning of the friendliness of the Princetonians. She showed us around the university. She made friends quickly and found it pretty easy to integrate herself into life there. The best part of the Princeton experience for me was the reunions week, P-rade and graduations! Partying with some of the alum from 10-15 years ago was weird at first, but really awesome and casual. I think Princeton has the most tight group of students who are loyal to the university. Very few students if any didn't seem to enjoy their experience; the families seemed to almost enjoy the reunions more than the students (probably because the students had done reunions 14 over the years!)

– I had a wonderful time at the campus. The information session was quite informative and it gave a real sense of what the school was like. I enjoyed the admissions officer who spoke during the session, because she gave insight on what it really was like to apply and what Princeton was actually looking for in an applicant. The tour was interesting I learned a lot of history behind the buildings and about the overall campus. The tour guide was also kinda funny and laid back, which was nice because Princeton is very intimidating (at least to me it is). Overall the tour was great and highly informative, and it has made Princeton my number one choice . Plus the campus is beautiful!

– I visited twice, once with family during a pre-senior year general college tour and once after being accepted for an overnight stay. The general admissions talk was like any other, but the tour guide was exceptionally nice and knowledgeable. The campus also impressed me at first glance!

When I came back to visit in more detail,all factors were initially against Pton actually… it was miserable and pouring rain. The admissions officers accidentally forgot about me (dripping wet with a suitcase) and gave me makeshift meal tickets, but I did get to eat and also got a wonderful host. The classes I visited were funny and interesting (stats and some history class). Besides the weather, my overnight trip was nearly perfect. I could not have expected a better way to convince myself that I should go there.

Other Comments (Transportation, local attractions, parking, etc.):

What I can foresee as being a pain in the behind is that we can't really park on campus, but do it in a parking lot and walk around. I had to drag my big suitcase around for nearly 2 hours.


While there are other real-life-visitor report sources out there, in my view, you can get more practical mileage out of CC's CampusVibe tool. Campus visit report posters' College Confidential forum screen names are listed, which means that you can research the nature of all their forum posts. Also, their email address is posted so that you can contact them offline (out of the CC realm) to ask questions about their campus visit experience.

All in all, The Vibe can fill you in on a depth of subjective opinions that other resources can't. So, give it a try before you head out this summer to trod some college sod.

Be sure to check out all my college-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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