Summer often means it’s time to load up the family car and embark on the Great American College Road Trip! If you are going to all the time and trouble to get to the campus, you want to do more than just drive around or take the campus tour. Here are a few tips to help you get the most of your college visits.
1. Book the campus tour and information session in advance. You can do this online by going to the college admissions website. Tours can book up and you want to be sure to learn as much as you can about the school while visiting.
2. Ask questions. You’ll be following a tour guide who is often walking backwards, but if you walk closely with the student guide, you’ll have the chance to ask more questions, or else hear the answers to the questions that other people are asking.
3. What kinds of questions should you ask the student tour guide? Ask about weekends, what the social life and campus culture is like, what kinds of activities he/she is involved in, how big their average classes are, how well they know their professors, whether or not they know anyone who has studied abroad or done an internship, if they know about the career development office, if they ever go to a writing or math tutoring center for extra help, etc. I always ask students about the party scene on campus, too. Just how intense is the overall atmosphere at that school?
4. Look around and take pictures. Look for signs of student activities and observe the bulletin boards in the student union as well as academic buildings. Look down at the sidewalks, too, because many clubs advertise their causes or upcoming events in chalk. Pictures help you go back and remember what you saw.
5. Pick up a copy of the student paper. Read what people are talking about and what’s going on.
6. Eat in a dining hall. What kind of food choices do you see? Are there kids eating alone, or in groups? You’ll be able to pick up on cues just by looking around and observing. I just had dinner at the University of Colorado – Boulder main dining hall and it was unbelievable how many wonderful different ethnic food choices they had. I could easily get used to eating there every day!
7. Look at the area surrounding the campus. What kind of area will you have to go through to get to/from campus? Would you feel safe? What does the community have to offer?
8. Questions to ask in the info session include what percentage of students on financial aid are receiving grants, merit scholarships, or work/study? Loans are often discussed as part of financial aid, but remember, loans must be repaid. If you plan to apply Early Decision, and financial assistance is important, ask them how they handle such issues at that school.
9. Residential life. How many years is student housing guaranteed, and what percentage of students live on campus all 4 years? Is the campus residential, commuter, or a suitcase school, meaning it empties out on weekends? What do the dorms look like? How do they pair up roommates?
10. This one is blank,because it’s really up to you to think of something that you really want to know more about After all, college visits are all about finding the right fit for you!
Interested in reading more about college visits? You might also want to read http://rebeccagrappo.com/blog/2010/11/22/why-should-families-overseas-care-about-the-boarding-school-or-collegeuniversity-visit/