Choosing a college can be overwhelming. Make sure you follow these tips to ensure a great 4 years!
Stomping around campus, touring dorms and sitting in lecture hall seats is an important step in getting your child off to college. Here's how to make the most of your visits.
During sophomore and junior years, parents and students begin their visits to colleges. The college visit plays a key role in the decision process and is often overlooked or undervalued. You and your student can learn much during those visits that can help you zero in on their top college choices.
Here are the top five things to do during a college visit.
1. Interact with students
One of the best ways to get a “feel” for the campus and the student population is to interact with the students. You can sit in on a class, eat in the cafeteria, and ask students what they love (and hate) about the college. Students have a unique perspective on campus life and “fitting in” is a crucial factor in making the college decision.
2. Tour the surrounding area
Take a tour (either walking or by car) of the area around the campus and the city in which the campus is located. Remember that your student will not only be living on campus, but they will also be venturing off campus on weekends and evenings. Some campuses are isolated from the cities and some are located within a city center. Depending on your student’s preferences, this will influence their college choice.
3. Talk to an admissions officer
If you are doing preliminary visits during the summer or you just want to get the feel for the college life, it’s not necessary to meet with admissions. However, if you think this college might end up on your list, it’s crucial to make an appointment to meet with someone from the admissions office. This let’s the college know you are interested and helps you establish a relationship if you do decide to apply.
4. Take the campus tour (and venture out on your own)
The campus tours are usually led by students and hit the highlights and the most positive aspects of the campus. You will see the cleanest freshman dorm room and the best view of the campus as you are walking around. Take the time after the tour to venture out on your own investigating the “lay of the land” and talking to the students.
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5. Ask some questions
Do your research and ask probing questions of the tour guide, students, and admissions counselor. Don’t ask obvious questions that you can find on their website or in their catalogs. And most important of all, take notes and get business cards and email addresses for future contacts.
Think about what questions you would like to know that aren’t addressed anywhere else, for instance:
1. Do students remain on campus during the weekends or do they go home?
2. What is the freshman retention rate and graduation rate?
3. Are there scholarships available that I might not find on your website?
4. What type of tutoring programs do you offer?
5. Does the college have an internship program?
6. How large are the typical freshman classes?
The worst mistake any student can make is neglecting the college visit. Many students say they just “felt it” when they set foot on campus. Students who accept admission without the visit may be very dissatisfied once they move onto campus or start attending classes. Much like buying a car without test driving, applying to a college without first visiting it means you may just wind up with a lemon!
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