August is a fifteen year old girl who has lived in Maryland most of her life. She loves writing and music, her favorite subject is Science, and she’s a vegetarian. She wants to become a journalist and is working as hard as she can towards this goal.
College: It is probably going to be one of the most important decisions you and your child will need to make and it will almost definitely be one of the most expensive ones. And while how much it will cost, what to major in, and making sure you have all the right stuff to get in are all import things to worry about, what is just as important is deciding on a college and what better way to choose than to up close and see what it is like first hand with college visits.
First thing’s first, have your teen make a list of their top choices. While he or she may have looked at twenty different schools online, all of which they would consider attending, it is important to have them narrow that list down to about four or five schools to visit. Anything more would just be exhausting, inconvenient, and confusing. A short list makes a final decision easier and the selection process a lot less trying.
So you and your teen worked out some colleges that they would like to visit, what next? Preparations. The best time to do college visits is before the summer between the Junior and Senior years of high school, at that time you teen should already be filling in applications. Although some colleges will allow visitors to wander the campus alone, try to schedule with a tour group and an information session, these will help you better understand the admissions process for that particular school and show some of the school’s best features. As for a time to schedule, try and schedule at a time when the school is in its Spring or Fall semesters when the most students are going to be there so your teen can get a feel for how it would be to attend the school. Most colleges end their springs breaks before the local high schools will start theirs making it an ideal time for college visits. Before going on any visits, ask your teen to make a list of resources, facilities, and academics that would be import to them and they want their potential college to have and use it as a sort of checklist for the visit.
On visitation day be sure to come prepared with questions, a list of places you will want to see, paper and pen, and your wallet. If you attend an information session first, ask questions about admissions and scholarships and if you have more specifics questions about your teen or their major you can come back after your tour and ask someone from the admissions office about them. Most tours are led by students who volunteered to conduct tours, so they want to be there and while they may not know the answer to all your questions they should be knowledgeable of the campus and its operations so they should be able to answer most of most of your question or at least be able to point you to someone who can. While on a tour look for student facilities that are going to be made available, find out dorm sizes, availability, and setups, and pay attention to the kind people that you see on your tour: do they look as if they enjoy their time here, are there students donning clothing to show school pride, or do they all look as if they would rather somewhere else? Also be sure to take note of anything you or your teen saw or found out about the school or dorms that they particularly liked or disliked, these perks could end up as the deciding factor.
After the tour has ended you and your teen should hit the food court and sample some of the universities dishes. It is important to find out if the school offers meals that will suit both your student’s taste and diet. If they are open to the public, walk around one of the buildings with classrooms to get a feel for the class sizes and speak to a professor about any internships available for students and how the classes are conducted. Lastly, be sure to visit facilities that are important to your teen and try to find the items your teen listed as important to have at a university. And remember, college visits are meant to be fun and helpful.
Photo: ajagendorf25 from Flickr