For high school juniors and their families, if it’s spring break, or the period leading up to it, it’s most likely college tour planning or attendance time.
Visiting schools online has its own benefits, but seeing a school in person can really help narrow down a student’s top choices.
It’s a good bet that an up close and personal visit will ultimately provide information that will prove helpful when completing applications and essays.
But what you do while visiting a school is equally important.
Here are our 10 most important tips that will get you on the right track.
Think of it as your college visit checklist.
Where to Go and What to Do on a College Visit
#1 It may seem obvious but phone/check out the website first.
Some schools require prospective applicants to reserve a spot in the information session and tour. Since information sessions and tour times vary seasonally, confirming the time will prevent mix-ups. While you have them on the phone, make sure you are on the school’s mailing list and find out about the other resources available to prospective students.
Finally, check to see that classes will be in session (and students will be on campus) when you visit
#2 Listen for key words.
Whenever representatives from the school talk, especially at information sessions, listen to the words they use. Most likely, you’ll be able to pick up on what’s most important for that school.
Then compare the words you heard most often and see if they are also used in marketing materials and on the admission’s section of the college’s website.
You’ll be amazed how easy it is to find the key words or phrases that schools emphasize over and over again. Write these words down and encourage your student to use them when writing application essays for the school, especially the “Why this school” essay.
#3 Take notes.
Putting together a school list is difficult, especially if all of the schools are running together in your mind. If your student won’t take notes, you should.
#4 Talk to students.
Especially those are not affiliated with the admissions office. Student tour guides are sometimes less than forthcoming with respect to a school’s shortcomings.
Other students, those who do not work for the admissions office, may offer different (and less scripted) insights.
#5 Pick up the school newspaper and skim it.
Hopefully, you took clear, meaningful notes while sitting in the information session and taking the tour. All too often things were clear when you visited, but later everything is a blur. School newspapers differentiate the school and highlight issues students and the administration consider important.
Referring to the college paper will come in handy, especially when you are answering that all too difficult supplemental question, “Why ABC College?”
#6 Take the tour.
It is a great way to get a sense of the campus. While on tour, be observant. Look for things that could send up red flags.
Is the campus well cared for? That can be an indication of whether alumni give money to the school.
Alumni who have had a great experience and feel that their school was part of their success often give back.
#7 Attend the information session
Other than an interview, this is the closest most applicants get to the admissions committee. Take advantage of it.
Ask thoughtful questions during, or better yet after, the information session.
Get the speaker’s card and follow up with an email or note.
The note will not get you in, but it will likely be included in your application and provides another data point on which your application will be evaluated.
Even if it is not required.
Interviewing showcases an important component of your application: interpersonal skills. These are difficult to demonstrate in an essay. If possible, interview with an admissions counselor on campus versus an alumnus. It will be, after all, a member of the admissions committee who will be evaluating your application.
#9 Try an overnight stay.
Sometimes the best way to get a sense of how you would fit in on campus is by staying overnight. Unlike anything else, it gives you a chance to experience a college’s classes, dorm life, campus safety, cafeteria food, and social life up close…blemishes and all.
#10 Investigate the campus’s crime statistics and those of the surrounding neighborhood.
Campus safety is important. Students need to feel safe when walking back from late-night study sessions or socializing.
The Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students every October 1st.
Prospective students and their parents should research this report for every school they are interested in, if applicable.
Knowing the campus is safe will make everyone more comfortable.
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