Spring and summer are busy times on college campuses, as high school juniors start taking college tours and admitted high school seniors come for one more look around or college orientation. But college visits are such a crucial part of choosing the right college that colleges welcome these students and look forward to making a positive connection.
There is a definite goal and purpose in the college visit: determine if the college is a good fit. But just showing up and walking around campus will not help teens from any worthwhile opinion of the college or the students. For college visits to be productive and informed, high school students should follow these seven simple guidelines:
1. Do your homework.
Make an appointment on the college’s website. Colleges track which students visit and showing interest contributes to a positive admissions decision. Showing up during the college’s spring break or on a Sunday when most of the offices are closed won’t help a high school student get to know the college or admissions staff.
In addition to making an appointment for the visit and connecting with admissions staff, students should learn something about the college. Study the website and brochures to help formulate questions to ask while on the tour and during meetings with admissions personnel. Asking questions that can be found on the website are not only a waste of time, but a waste of time on the tour.
2. Ask questions during the tour.
Before they go, high school students should make a list of questions to ask on a college tour. Students should not stand there silently. Engage the tour guide. Ask questions that might not be volunteered on a tour but are important to your visit. Any question that is not covered in the material on the website or the handouts should be easily answered by the guide. If not, the guide should know where to get the answer.
3. Ask questions of students.
College students are your best source of information on a college tour. They will be honest about their experiences and happy to share what they love (and don’t love) about the college. The campus tour guide is supposed to give a glowing impression of the college. Other students will give you an honest evaluation of what it’s really like to attend there. Don’t just ask about academics but also about weekends, social pressures and dorm life.
4. Get away from the organized tour.
Get off the beaten path and explore the college. Visit the student union. Go to the library. Walk around and look at the various dorms. Talk to the students. Explore any areas that piqued your interest on the tour. Ask to see a dorm room that’s not on the tour. Viewing a “lived in” dorm room will help you see what college life is really like.
5. Explore the surrounding area.
Don’t just stay on campus. Take a tour of the surrounding area. If a city or town is nearby, check out the shopping, restaurants and entertainment. This is especially important if a key element is location.
6. Meet with financial aid.
When you make an appointment for the visit, make an appointment to meet with the financial aid office. Ask questions about merit aid, financial aid deadlines, the percentage of aid the college provides for incoming students and the true cost of attendance.
7. Schedule an interview.
The interview is by far the most important aspect of the college visit so make an appointment before you go. The interview demonstrates a high school student’s interest in the college and is another chance to ask questions. It is the first time the college will meet the student and get to know a little about him or her. Prepare for this interview by reviewing these 10 possible college interview questions and 5 questions to ask a college interviewer. The interview can make or break a college acceptance offer so a good impression is important.