College Visits Done Right
What may seem to be a long drive for a boring tour given by an overly peppy guide who speaks faster than ever imagined possible is actually more valuable than most families think if done right. Giving the students a clearer picture of what they want and don't want from their future college, allowing them a chance to demonstrate interest to their top choices, getting their questions answered and showing them what they are working for and where they may be in a short time are all reasons not to forgo campus visits. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your campus visits.
- Research First - walk onto campus with some knowledge of the school and programs you are interested in. It is unlikely you will know exactly what you want to major in, but you probably have some ideas. These visits are a chance to sort through them. You should have your questions which were not answered online ready to go so that you can ask the admissions counselors or program directors on site.
- Tailor your Tour – make arrangements ahead of time with the admissions office to meet the people you want to meet and see what you want to see. If you think you are interested in English, try to schedule a meeting with an advisor for that department and look at those classrooms and curricula. Interested in science? Take a good look at the labs, look at what students are doing in their classes, speak with some professors. Although many schools will not be able to or want to accommodate such individual requests, you can take the initiative to do most of these things on your own while on campus and if it is a school you are truly interested in, be persistent. Some schools also have open houses or visits geared specifically towards certain majors or departments. Pay attention to their schedules and attend one which best matches your interests. In addition to the academic facilities, you may be interested in athletics, arts, or another side of campus. Explore those as well. Scheduling your tour around an athletic competition, concert, or other student event is a fun and easy way to explore beyond the tour.
- Get a Feel for Student Life – general student characteristics and social life can vary significantly by campus. Visiting campus while school is in session is crucial. Take the time to eat in a campus dining hall, visit the library, tour the student activity center, and pick up a campus paper and other information on student activities to get a feel for campus life. If you can not attend a tour while students are on campus before applying, try to revisit later.
- Explore the Area– campus location can play a big part in your decision and it is better to find out what you think of the town/city now. Safety, transportation and entertainment options are among the things to take into consideration off-campus.
- Take Notes – after a few tours, the campuses and information may seem to blur together. During or after your visit, do not forget to write down your thoughts. You can even snap a few pictures to jog your memory later.
Big or small, urban or rural, religious or not – a student may have no idea what they prefer until they experience it in person. Campus visits are invaluable for showing a student what qualities they want in their future school. Even visiting a school a student knows they have no interest in can prove helpful as it shows them a different side of things and gives them a clearer picture of what they do not want. You wouldn't buy a car without driving it or a house without seeing it, so why would you pay for an education at a school which could potentially cost more than either of those without visiting beforehand? Do the campus visits, and do them right!
Ashley is an independent college counselor and founder of ACM College Consulting, LLC. Before becoming a college counselor, she spent several years in Spain and Germany as an English teacher. In addition to her BS in Business from Bucknell, she obtained her Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. Alongside her consulting work, she volunteers with ScholarMatch, a nonprofit helping high achieving, low income students get to college. She enjoys working with students and has helped teenagers and parents of many backgrounds from across the US and Europe over the past 10 years. www.acmcollegeconsulting.com