It’s that time of the year – springtime and college visits. You may be making final rounds of college visits before the big decision. Or it could be you’re starting to look at colleges to create a potential list of schools your student will be applying to in the fall. In either case, I know first hand how visiting any number of schools in a small time can be overwhelming and confusing. If you simply just take the tour of the college and move on, all the schools can start blending together. Trust me, your memory is probably not as good as you think after a few tours.
The good news? Going in with a plan can change all of this and make your college visits a breeze and you’ll have an easier time reflecting and reviewing the trip after. Even better news? Based on my experience, I created an app to help guide you through this process, U Decide College.
To see what we think are the key things to look for in your tour, download our app U Decide College from the app store, and set up your account, the first thing you’ll do is fill out a quick survey going through what matters in a school for your student and what doesn’t.
Here are three steps before, during, and after your college visit to get the most of your trip
- Before your visit:
◦ Sit down with your child (if you haven’t already) and have the discussion of what’s important for them in a college and what is not. I see too often parents and their kids not on the same page of what consists of their “perfect school” and it causes major communication problems.
The obvious ones are “what school size would be best?”, “Urban vs. Suburban vs. Rural campus?” but what about do they have active clubs you want to be involved with? Every school will tell you they have over 250 student clubs, but this by no means says anything about how many active clubs there are. Do a quick google search, is there any activity from the club online, or an email address or student in charge? Shoot them a short email before your trip, I stress this to everyone going on a tour, the overwhelming majority of students are more than happy to talk to prospective students about their experiences do not feel afraid to reach out to them!
- During Your Visit
◦ The college tour: think of this as the spark notes for the school. It’s a lot of information but it’s not the same as reading the book. It’s a lot of information in a short time so taking notes and anything that can jog your memory later is key. Feel free to open up U Decide on your iPhone and add the school you’re visiting before your tour starts, this way as you learn any facts or stop by a dorm, you can give it a rating, take a picture and write down any notes or facts your tour guide tells you.
◦ Do what your student will be doing every day: This is where it’ll be different for every student. Maybe sit in a class in a department they’re interested in. Do they like to study in the library or do they like a coffee shop better? Check out the study spaces on campus. And also try to find out if there’s a popular place students spend time off campus. Grab lunch on campus and dinner off campus (Remember this isn’t just where they’ll be going to school, for many students this is where they live for 4 years) so get a feel of the location and community.
◦ Get a personal tour: A new way to get a personal tour and a connection to a student like you at a college is a service called Campus Sherpa. Now this comes with a price tag, but it is a convenient way to get one-on-one access to a student with your interests and a chance to get an inside look at the what matters most to you in a college.
I mentioned this already, but I can’t stress this enough, please take notes! Write down what sticks out (for good and bad reasons), take pictures, and be descriptive. Really try to utilize our app or carry piece of paper and pen!
- After the Visit
◦ This is the time to review and analyze. There’s a lot to think about while you’re at the college but try to be present. Write down your thoughts and take pictures but leave it at that, relax and enjoy your time there. When you get back or the next day, sit down with your kid and review your notes and talk about how it compares to other colleges, and check out the “good-fit” score it receives based on what matters to you and your ratings.
This can be a stressful time and overwhelming but just follow these tips and try to relax and enjoy your time with your child. Don’t let stress affect your impression of a school!
Jesse Reichenstein is the founder of U Decide College, a company looking to build tools to help students find their best fit school by what matters to them. For more information visit www.UDecide.college or feel free to email Jesse at Jesse@udecide.college