In June you will see, in the Pine-Richland High School lobby, a board with a big picture of the United States on it. It will show you all the colleges each individual student chose for his or her next four years.
With colleges all the way from Florida to California, what is a big determining factor that helps students choose their college of choice? It’s the college visit, one of the most important steps in the college planning process. From both personal experience and that of my friends I am going to give you some tips and tricks so you know what to look for in your future college.
First of all, it is never too early to visit a college. Start now! Most college visits are completed during the spring and summer of your junior year. This gives students a good idea of what the college is looking for when applying, and students will be given an opportunity to talk to sport coaches to see what they want in their senior season.
It is best to visit a college when it is in session. This would be Mondays through Fridays and early September through May. With many students on campus, you will be able to get a lot of questions answered and see what a typical day at college is like. Do not visit during college breaks and holidays because the campus will be empty. Also, do not visit when the students are stressed. These being the first week of a new semester or finals week. Students will be less likely to answer your questions if they have other things on their minds.
Experiencing student life can be one of the most important factors for choosing a college because this is where you will be spending your next four years. Therefore make sure to experience college outside of your tour. Many students like to stay overnight to see what living in a dorm is actually like. They usually find a friend who lives on campus or some colleges have opportunities for students to sleep over on campus for a night.
This also gives students the opportunity to ask questions to college students outside of the tour where -- let's just say it -- your tour guide is trying to “sell you the school”. Also, take the opportunity to read the bulletin boards, eat in the cafeteria, and explore on your own. See if there are any clubs and activities that you might enjoy.
Experiencing academic life in college is just as important as student life. While visiting, try to sit in on a class or two of your possible major or majors. If you are deciding between two, visit a class from both. This could be a determining factor in the area you want to study. Talk to the admissions office and find out what they want to see on your transcripts and ideal SAT/ACT scores. Always visit the financial aid station to see what types of loans and scholarships are offered.
Most students, when visiting colleges, have a headful of questions, but it is very important to know exactly what types of questions to ask. You have to be very specific to achieve the answer you are looking for.
Let’s look at two different scenarios. If you want to know if the accounting program at a certain college is good, do not ask “Is your accounting program good?”, because no one is going to say that a program is bad. Therefore ask, “What are your best majors/programs?” Whoever you are asking will then tell you the best ones and leave out the weak links.
Another important factor for students is professor availability. Do not ask, “Is your professor availability poor?”, because no one is going to admit to that. Ask, “Are professors required to have office hours?” instead. This will give you a good idea what the chances are of meeting with a professor outside of class to discuss a paper, etc.
Now hopefully after reading this post you have gathered some tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your college visit. A college is not just a college, but will be a second home for the next four years.