College Series: College Visits 101
It is extremely important that you visit the colleges in which you are interested. While some schools may look great on paper, it may not meet your expectations or simply "not feel right." I have seen too many students who accept a spot, only to transfer after the first semester because it was not what they expected. When I ask, "Did you visit?", most readily admit they did not.
There are two types of college visits:
With a formal visit, you contact the school, take the tour and are told about their programs. This may include a lunch in the cafeteria, a look into dorm life, and maybe even sitting in on a class. These tours are important and should be done. Ask a lot of questions to really learn about their school and if it is the right fit for you. (See below for what to ask!)
Informal tours are just as important. This is when you get off the beaten path and go around yourself. At this time you should check out what surrounds the campus (do you feel safe, where is the local bank/ grocery store, do you need a car, etc.). They can also provide an opportunity to talk to different people than you'd encounter on a formal visit. Remember your questions then as well!
Questions To Ask
UnMaze Me has created two different downloadable questions handouts for your use on college visits. These handouts (found at the bottom of this post beneath the questions) provide a nifty printable way to bring the following questions with you:
—How much time do students typically spend on homework?
—How much writing and reading are expected?
—What is the average class size of introductory classes?
—How widely used are teaching assistants on your campus?
—What is the average class size of upper-division courses?
—What opportunities are there for undergraduate research?
—How many students participate in undergraduate research?
—Is there a culminating senior year experience?
—Do you have an honors college?
—Do you have a learning community or other freshman experience?
—What is your average financial aid package?
—What is the typical breakdown of loans versus grants?
—What percentage of financial need does the school typically meet?
—What is the average merit award?
—What percentage of students receive college grants?
—What is the average college debt that students leave with?
—What work-study opportunities are there?
Graduation Track Record
—What is your four-year graduation rate?
—What is your five-year graduation rate?
—What does it take to graduate in four years?
—What percentage of freshmen return for sophomore year?
—What type of tutoring program do you have?
—How do you provide academic advice to students?
—Do you have a writing center and how do I access it?
—What kind of learning disability resources do you have?
—How many students at the college get internships?
—What percentage of students study abroad?
—What type of career services do you have?
—What kind of dorm choices are there?
—What percentage of student live on campus?
—How long are dorm accommodations guaranteed?
—How many students live on campus?
—Do most students go home on the weekend?
—What percentage of the study body belongs to a sorority or fraternity?
—What activities are offered to students?
—What clubs do you have on campus?
This handout provides you four pages (or two double sided pages) that give you not only the questions and a place to score the answers at a particular college but also room to take notes on the answers.
This handout is a two-page (or single double sided page) version of the scorecard that eliminates the room for notes but makes it easier to get a bottom line score from a faster visit.