As you and your child begin to plan for their future the time for college visits will be on hand before you know it.
Rushing to see schools at the last minute or putting off visits until the spring of senior year is never a good idea. In order to know where your child will best fit, the time to visit campuses of the schools that he or she is interested in would be at the latest, the beginning of junior year.
If you have the opportunity to do some visiting in the summers of 9th and 10th grade as well, that is excellent. If you plan to put off the heavy duty college search until halfway through high school then junior year is when your visits should begin.
Prepare for Your College Visit
The earlier you plan a visit, the more time you have to truly study options when it comes to college. Taking care of visits early on in 11th grade will free up time in the 12th grade to revisit your child’s top choices.
Prepare a list of questions in advance
While you visit a particular campus, come prepared. Make a list of questions you have that specifically pertain to that college and ensure that they are all answered to your complete satisfaction. If the tour guide does not have the answer you are looking for, ask to speak to an admissions representative. You should leave the campus feeling as if you learned everything you wanted to know about the particular school.
Get off the beaten path
Campus tour guides and admissions representatives are there to sell you on all the best their school has to offer. While they are quite knowledgeable, its good to talk to others to get a different perspective. Strike up a conversation with a student or stop to ask them a couple questions about their experiences.
Visit the library, have lunch in the cafeteria, and pick up the college published newspaper, literary magazine or any other student publication that is available to you. Check out the postings on all the bulletin boards to get a sense of what type of clubs, events, and activities are sponsored on the particular campus. This will give you a sense as to the “life” of the school.
Get a sense of your child's chosen academic program
While meeting with Admissions and Financial Aid representatives are a very important part of a college visit, it is also a good idea to talk with a representative from the Department in which your child will most likely study. Talk to the Dean, if possible and if not, ask to speak with a professor from the department. It is also beneficial to talk with any academic advisors that would work to create your child’s college schedule.
Finally, if your child has any health issues, a destination for the visit should be to the campus clinic, where you can speak with representatives about health issues in more detail.
Many parents plan college tours for the summer months when their child is not missing school. That is important, but it is also important that you and your child get a true sense of the academic rigors of a particular school.
If you can arrange for your child to sit in on a class, even in a summer session the benefits would be tremendous. An overnight visit in a dorm might cause some panic in parents, but it is also worthwhile because your child will then get a sense of how he or she might adjust to life in a dorm.
It’s unnerving to think about your little son or daughter all grown up and possibly living far away from you, but that is part of college life and it does need to be experienced!
No matter how short or long your visit, the final thing on your checklist should be to follow up with a thank-you note that specifically mentions what you found most exceptional or exciting about the visit. A personal touch goes a long way and in the long run, may influence the admissions decision. Don ‘t miss that chance to make an amazing impression!