Margo Bartsch, Contributor

Long road trips typically include noticing the various college stickers on the back of car windows. This can be a conversation starter: Where is that school?

In planning your summer road trips, consider adding a convenient college campus visit to your existing itinerary. Sometimes it is the detoured side trip that makes the journey memorable.

Photo by Margo Bartsch A road sign on I-95 that includes three college destinations: the University of Maryland at College Park, George Washington University in D.C. and the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Photo by Margo Bartsch. A road sign on I-95 that includes three college destinations: the University of Maryland at College Park, George Washington University in D.C. and the University of Richmond in Virginia.

This Father’s Day weekend, we drove nine hours to Washington, D.C., which celebrated its first Juneteenth event in our nation’s capital. It was also the perfect opportunity to explore three colleges along the way: University of Maryland at College Park, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and University of Richmond in Virginia. Each has a distinct campus community; however, they all share access to many internship and job opportunities in government and various industries.

University of Maryland is eight hours from Vermont and just a half-hour after crossing through the Baltimore Tunnel. The stately red brick gate and tree-lined, manicured grass is a welcoming, contained campus. The Maryland Terrapins are in the Big 10 Conference with a rah-rah spirit and exceptional academics. Its 26,000 undergraduate students are a bit less than its competitors at the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor and the Wisconsin Badgers at Madison, both at 30,000.

University of Maryland has its own Metro train station on the red line that is 20-minutes to the National Institutes of Health and a half-hour to Washington, D.C. The campus offers both the collegiate feel and access to incredible professional experiences.

To make a big place small, the Honors College at the University of Maryland, College Park has 4,000 students and six living-learning programs. Two new dorms and various student organizations foster community and teamwork. Honors College applicants must submit additional essays for admissions.

Continuing to drive a half-hour to Washington, D.C., George Washington University’s urban campus is situated on the Foggy Bottom Metro stop with the orange, blue and silver lines. The phrase, “location, location, location” epitomizes the ability to walk to internships, cultural events, and city night life. George Washington University has 11,000 undergraduate students, similar to University of Vermont at 10,000.

George Washington University celebrated its bicentennial birthday in 2021 and is located between the White House and the Washington Monument. Its neighbors include the U.S. State Department, International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which are great internship opportunities (among others) during school or in the summer.

Since 1884, George Washington has the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; whereas, the other D.C. colleges like Georgetown University and American University lack engineering degrees. More engineering and technology companies are moving to the D.C. area, like Boeing and Amazon. This creates internships and jobs for students with the academic backgrounds that fit with the work requirements.

With the networking connections in Washington, D.C., George Washington encourages students to take cross-school majors, which is the ability to minor or double major outside of their academic school. For example, a school of business student can take classes at the Milken School of Public Health or the Elliott School of International Affairs. This prepares students for a range of career options.

Crossing over the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C., toward Richmond, Virginia, begins the almost two-hour drive to University of Richmond. Also, Amtrack is a nearly two-hour train ride that costs around $11 with 10 daily trains.

University of Richmond is a liberal arts college with around 3,000 undergraduate students, similar to Middlebury College with 2,600. University of Richmond includes the Robins School of Business. Students may declare a business major after studying one year in the school of liberal arts.

Richmond is the capitol of Virginia and only a 15-minute drive from University of Richmond. This creates an expanded social outlet and internship opportunities. Also, the Richmond Spiders is a Division-1 athletic program competing in the Atlantic 10 Conference. With its gated green campus and sprawling athletic fields, University of Richmond offers a balance of living and learning in a picturesque setting.

When planning your summer road trip schedule, remember to add college visits near your destination. Beforehand, visit the admissions tab on the college’s website to register for an information session and tour, if available.

Just taking a walk around campus provides context and personality. Bring a notebook to reflect on your impressions for your college list and essays. Seeing is believing to make college planning come to life.

(Margo Bartsch founded College Essay Coach, a full-service college admission business, and has been an adjunct professor in business at Champlain College and at Middlebury College.)