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Planning College Visits

infomom909infomom909 9 replies9 threads Junior Member
Hi, I have a junior here. We are in TX. As we are planning some college tours (some in the NE), everyone insists that we should visit only when the school is in session. Did your kids miss school days to do college tours since it seems the academic calendars pretty much align up? Is there a list somewhere that tells you the best times to visit colleges when they are in session? This might help finding a few days where the HS school is closed but the colleges are open. Thanks so much!
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Replies to: Planning College Visits

  • kiddiekiddie 3644 replies224 threads Senior Member
    We did all of our college visits in the summer or on days when my daughter did not have school. She didn't miss any school day for college visits until accepted students days in March of senior year (the two which were on weekdays). You learn plenty during the summer or when the college kids may not be there (do check that they have tours on those days you plan to visit when the college might not be in session). Most campuses have students around all year long (even spring break and summer), so you do get to meet students and get some sense of the vibe of the school.
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  • natty1988natty1988 786 replies12 threads Member
    High School and College academic calendars don't always line up. With our D we visited some schools over her high school's winter break and the colleges were in session, but then not all schools have a week off at the start of February. We also visited some colleges over her spring break...some of the universities had spring breaks that were before or after her high school's spring break. You just have look online and see when universities have their breaks. Another thing to keep in mind when scheduling is that colleges start in August. If your kid's high school starts in September, you could visit colleges in August when they've already started and your kid is still on summer vacation.
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  • natty1988natty1988 786 replies12 threads Member
    edited January 20
    At my kid's school you could get an excused absence for a college visit. But, you could only get a certain number of days at a time and only a certain number of days per month and year. And you had to get approval from all your teachers and you couldn't be behind or doing poorly in any classes. Does your kid's school do this? Missing a day or two would be fine. I don't know about missing a whole week....

    We visited on weekends, summer and vacations. It worked well for us. Even when visiting on school vacations we found plenty of colleges that were in session!

    Good luck!
    edited January 20
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  • elena13elena13 986 replies16 threads Senior Member
    Spring break is usually a good option during junior year. It typically doesn't conflict with college spring breaks but check websites to make sure. I would also consider finding a three day weekend in February or March where your child already has a day off from school and extending it a little to minimize school absences. You can do official tours on most Saturdays and weekdays and then maybe do an unofficial tour or something fun on that Sunday.
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  • TS0104TS0104 1127 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Our high school was rather understanding of college visits, even more so for senior year spring college visits when the pressure level dies down. Junior year is more intense and missing school is harder, IMO.

    While many families visit during summer, I'm in the camp that finds in-session tours to be very useful. Fit was very important to us and I definitely was looking around at the student body, library, cafeteria, etc. We did one tour on MLK day (today!) that class was not in session and while we had a very in depth, one on one tour and dept. head meetings, we didn't get too big of idea of campus vibe except from our guide.

    I don't think there is any kind of general list of good days to visit colleges. Some colleges have Preview or Open House days in the fall and spring where they really put on all kinds of prospective student activities and events, instead of just the standard information session and student led walking tours which are probably held almost every day class is in session. I do think some schools have weekend tours too? But you'll have to check the web sites of each college to figure out the actual scheduling.
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  • Coun2316Coun2316 78 replies5 threads Junior Member
    We did the bulk of ours over spring break sophomore and junior year. Most schools were in session, but we hit a couple that were on their spring break. It's worth looking at each school's academic calendar so you know if any of them will be on break. We did one small LAC tour where I think the timing contributed to nobody liking it, but a couple of other campuses still had enough going on that it didn't matter.
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  • VaNcBorderVaNcBorder 206 replies17 threads Junior Member
    While we did visits around various Fridays and Mondays that our S18 was off of school (holidays, teacher work days, conference days, etc.), we visited his #1 choice over the summer. We did this so we could mix the visit with a 5 day family vacation and really get a sense of the school and the city it was in. The tour had plenty of other families there and he was really able to visualize what the school would be like, even without all of the students there. Freshman orientations were happening as well as students there for summer classes, so there was still plenty of activity on campus. Once he was accepted, we offered to fly him back to see the school at full capacity, but he didn’t think it necessary.
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  • TS0104TS0104 1127 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Oh, also, in general, college spring breaks seem to be earlier than high school spring breaks, so spring break is definitely worth looking at. Also for summer the size of the college would matter...the smaller the school, the more it will be likely to seem really closed down on a day off. A large school likely has all kind of student activity during summer sessions.
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  • SchadretSchadret 148 replies20 threads Junior Member
    When we did tours a few years ago for our D, it was immensely more helpful for her to do them when school was in session. Not only to get a real feel for the student body vibe, but also to be able to sit in on (or at least peek into) actual classes and not just empty classrooms and labs. We ended up doing Rutgers (state flagship) in the summer and it was a ghost town. Very off-putting for her. We made sure the rest were all while school was in session.
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  • thumper1thumper1 76554 replies3387 threads Senior Member
    We took each of our two kids on two BIG college trips. One was in the summer, and the other was during April vacation.

    This year, the April vacation coincides with Easter so there are some colleges that have Easter long weekends. The years we went, Easter was in March or early April well before our scheduled visits.

    The best thing to do is check the admissions office schedules for tours and info sessions. If those are happening, then go.

    As noted, even in the summers, the schools had something going on. There was only one school that didn’t “show well” during the summer because they were doing extensive renovations it seemed everywhere.

    Every other visit was fine in the summer...although hot on those tours!

    We were able to see 7 schools in 10 days on our plane trip visits. One was to the southeast and one to CA.

    We also did a lot of local visits on weekends...because one kid was interested in schools in our region of the country.
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  • momocarlymomocarly 961 replies11 threads Member
    We are from TX also. The school only allowed 3 days a year excused absences for college visits. We ended up using those for some trips. Spring break would be good to go up to the NE because TX spring breaks do not line up with most college's breaks in the NE. We did several early visits in summer and one before our school started which ended up being a week before the college started but most students were there. That ended up being a great visit. The summer visits varied. Some were fine but I wouldn't suggest it unless it was your only option. At least he saw the schools and talked to the faculty. There were summer classes going on. Just don't go to TX Tech in August. Most miserable visit I had! Didn't bother him as much!
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  • Johnny523Johnny523 220 replies10 threads Junior Member
    I think visits work better when school is in session. We did one visit (Western Colorado) on a Saturday because that's when they did their visit day, and even though it was during the semester, it felt weird. But it gave a good sense of what it's like on a weekend.

    I think the large schools during the summer session are fine to visit because there is still plenty going on.
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  • ultimomultimom 229 replies3 threads Junior Member
    In Texas, you also only get excused absences for the day of the visit, not for travel days. And, there are strict rules for having 90% attendance in each class to receive credit. There are ways to make up credit but set up is a hassle.

    We are in Austin with a spring break that lines up with U Texas and it also overlaps with many spring breaks in the NE. But, you may get lucky.

    I don’t have a good solution because I don’t think we handled college visits very well. My son did miss some school and it was difficult especially we we missed a connection due to weather and ended up getting back a day late.

    As someone else mentioned, next time around I will try to take advantage of the long weekends high school students have to cover travel days to colleges. Even though my daughter is a sophomore, we will visit the NE this spring break to visit our son who is in college in Boston. He isn’t coming home for spring break so we figured we’d go see him to overlap with his birthday. Hopefully this will help my D get some impressions of the type of school she likes.
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  • StPaulDadStPaulDad 516 replies1 threads Member
    My oldest and I went on a longer trip out east to see a couple schools where she'd established a relationship with a coach. (She did eventually choose one of them.) My second just used days when his school was closed when we ran around looking at local schools.

    Our state (MN) has some state-wide days off in the fall for educators that the union extracted years ago (MEA weekend in mid-October.) Many MN colleges have open houses for that Friday when they know the seniors are available. But there are also weird days that pop up like end of trimester grading days, or the Friday before a Monday holiday that sometimes gets tacked on where high schools are off and colleges probably aren't.

    Of course I never cared what my kids' schools thought about me pulling them out. If I call it in it's an excused absence, write down whatever you want. We usually have to work around academic or athletic calendars, but my child determines what's miss-able and what isn't in a case like this.
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  • bloomfield88bloomfield88 295 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited January 20
    We had plenty of summer visits and autumn/winter/spring visits. I didn't mind the summer visits at all. No stress from what the kids are missing back home in school or aren't studying at the moment. Easier to get around campus.
    I stressed the two big things for summer visits:
    a) You won't be here in this weather. Think autumn, winter, spring weather. Throw away how bloody hot it is in the south or how wonderful it is in New England.
    b) Imagine a full campus.
    edited January 20
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  • ultimomultimom 229 replies3 threads Junior Member
    @StPaulDad Texas public schools have restrictive attendance policies and what a parent writes on a note has no bearing. You need a note from the college you are visiting. Sick days are not excused without a note from a doctor. If you miss too many days, even if excused, you don’t get credit for the class without going through an appeals process. It is crazy. School funding is based on days attended. If your child is absent, the school is docked money.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9918 replies538 threads Senior Member
    Many people don’t have the luxury of taking days off during the week in the school year or in summer. But IMO, yes, it is best to visit when kids are at college. Otherwise it’s a bit like going to the zoo with no animals. As far as I know, there isn’t a list that tells you when kids are in classes at various schools.

    You can look at the academic calendar for colleges of interest. See if classes are on for the days you want to visit. Tours often book up a month or so in advance, but it’s perfectly fine to visit on your own. Just be sure to sign in at the admissions office, and pick up a campus newsletter if one is handy. They serve as a good reminder of the college and help give a sense of the vibe. You can always ask questions to whoever is working in the admissions office.

    You can still learn a lot and have a nice time with your kid visiting in the summer. Sometimes a summer visit can be useful for getting a sense of the area, and often, admissions offices will still be open. I have to say that with my eldest, summer visits were not helpful and we ended up revisiting a couple of colleges that we saw in the summer. With my second kid, we did far fewer visits and only when college was in session. He then visited two colleges after acceptance.

    Don’t feel that you MUST visit. Even at colleges that consider interest, they know everyone can’t visit. There are other ways to show interest.
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  • Momof3BMomof3B 270 replies6 threads Junior Member
    We are in Texas as well (Dallas suburb). Our district allows for 2 excused absences for college visits for juniors and seniors. Up until now, the college visits we’ve done (all in state) have been on a Saturday during the college’s preview day/open house. We will be taking advantage of the two excused absences to check out a couple of schools during tbt week later this spring.
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  • hhealyhhealy 3 replies1 threads New Member
    Go to the college's Open Houses because you usually get academic break out sessions and can talk to Dept Heads and Professors.
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