Selecting a college is a big decision — and it’s important for students and their parents to plan ahead before setting up a tour. It’s never too early to start visiting campuses, but most families make it a priority during the students’ junior year in high school. As a high school counselor, you play a key role in the college search process. Be sure to engage students in a discussion about the schools they may be thinking of attending well in advance of their campus visits. Many colleges and universities offer a variety of visit opportunities including personal tours, information sessions and open houses.
Before visiting a college, there are many things parents and students should consider such as academic programs, student population, facilities, faculty and staff, location of the college, activities offered on campus and in the surrounding area and even the campus food. “Visiting a campus is a critical piece of the college search and selection process,” says Stacy A. Ledermann, Director of Freshman Admissions at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. “In setting up a campus visit, students should be prepared with a list of questions for all the people they may wish to meet including an admissions representative, faculty from an academic department or an athletic coach.”
Do your homework first
In order to find the best college or university to match a student’s interest, families must do their homework. Encourage them to visit websites and read any literature about schools a student is interested in attending. They should also consider visiting the campuses more than once. As a student gets closer to making a decision about where to attend, encourage families to revisit the “top colleges” on the list, sit in on a class, talk to a professor, shadow a current student or request an overnight visit.
“Actually being on a college campus is the very best way for students to decide if it is where they want to spend two to four years of their life,” explains Ledermann. “Parents and students should ask questions about other student experiences: How did they choose the college, what are their academic experiences and what is the availability of experiential learning opportunities?” And don’t forget to ask about college alumni: What are they doing now and how did their collegiate experiences, both in and outside of the classroom, benefit them? Ledermann adds, “By taking notes and keeping track of deadlines, families can stay organized and feel confident about the decisions they are making.”
Make the most of your time together
Touring colleges is an exciting — and enlightening — time for students and parents alike. But it doesn’t need to be all work and no play. “Families should have fun and make the most of their time together by grabbing a bite to eat, picking up a trinket or T-shirt from the college store or taking pictures of themselves on the campus,” states Ledermann. “There are many opportunities awaiting them — and students and their parents should enjoy every step of the college search process!”
Lou Ann Benigni-Lynch, owner of CopyLAB, is a freelance writer based in Victor, N.Y.