Here in New England, it seems that winter still has a firm grasp on our weather, but soon, spring will arrive, and high school students and their families will start thinking about embarking on some college visits and campus tours. Your interest may have been piqued by hearing about admission decisions from the older students; you may notice flyers for college fairs posted at school; and you’ll probably be considering or even prepping for standardized tests. But springtime also brings the opportunity for college visits, in three different ways, at three different stages of your higher education journey:
- Just Browsing: Younger students may find that winter/spring holidays with the family can be the perfect time to pop over to a college campus. If your vacation travels bring you near a university, I suggest that you take a couple of hours to wander around. It could also be a great opportunity for your parents to enjoy a trip down memory lane if you find yourself close to their alma mater. Walk around, eat a meal in the dining hall, and pop into the Admissions Office to pick up materials. You may even find it possible to jump onto a campus tour. These visits can give you a good idea of the size, the ethos of the university, the culture, and the location. Do you want a college within walking distance of the town? Does the campus look well-maintained? How close is the airport? Public transportation? One question you’ll have is how you would get home during the holidays!
- Serious shopping: When spring arrives in earnest, high school juniors will be seriously considering college options, major studies, and lists of likely locations. Remember that you’ll be starting your applications during the summer after your junior year, because you’ll likely be applying to some colleges ‘early’ (November!). So serious college visits, campus tours, classroom visits, and admissions presentations are essential for your information gathering. Try to put together an itinerary that sensibly combines geographic locations – your parents will appreciate that. Always go online and make reservations for student-led tours and presentations. Find out who your admissions representative is and see if you can make an appointment for a one-on-one meeting with her/him. Really take your time now to explore the campus thoroughly and in-depth – check out residence halls, talk to students, examine the library, the computer labs, the science labs, and learn about support services both personal and academic.
- Ready to buy: It is true that many students apply to several colleges without ever having set foot on campus. But in spring of your senior year, usually by the end of March, you’ll have all your decisions, and it’s time to take advantage of special campus visits for admitted students. These will include overnight stays, classroom visits in your chosen academic unit, meetings with students and faculty, and a session with the financial aid office. The National College Decision Day is May 1, so all these visits must be completed by then. Parents frequently attend these Admitted Student Visits and are offered their own programs, but they typically won’t be staying on campus with their students. These are the visits that count – you are choosing your new ‘home away from home’!
This tale of three distinctly different types of college visits all ends up in the same place. The moral to be gleaned is that you need to start early, stay focused on your campus research, and have as many experiences under your belt before having to make your final life-changing decisions. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]