You know a few colleges already: the famous ones, the local ones and a few from out of state that have won a football championship or the heart of your older cousin.
But what about the other couple thousand colleges out there? How do you find out about those? As you think about senior year, here is some advice about how to find your best college match.
• Go to college fairs
College fairs are held in your high school gym or a local conference center. At a college fair, you will have the chance to speak with representatives and receive information about their schools.
“Students can pick up information on majors, scholarships and financial aid, cost of attendance, an overview of the college, information on visiting, alumni, student life activities, housing and much more,” says Michelle Lockhart, director of undergraduate admission at Oklahoma City University (okcu.edu).“In addition to the materials that are handed out, the university representative behind each table at a college fair is a wealth of knowledge about the institution, and they are able to answer additional questions students may have.”
• Why should I go to one?
Visiting a college fair is a great first step. “Most students don’t recognize just how many colleges and universities are out there,” Lockhart says.
“We also look for students at the fair that we are already getting to know so that we can talk with them about any questions they may have as they continue their search and move through the admission process.”
• Don’t just look at pictures online
College tours are run by current students at the school.
“Taking a tour is important because you get more of a feel for the campus atmosphere,” says Kwame Lovell, a junior who is a tour guide at Hobart College (hws.edu). “When I took my tour, my guide told personal stories as we walked around campus, which made me feel more connected and welcomed on campus. As a guide, I do the same thing. I think it really helps prospective students.”
• What is a tour like?
Campus tours usually last an hour. Tour guides will take you to the most important and most common areas students visit on a daily basis: the dining hall, student center, academic halls and dorm rooms.
“Everyone wants to know how big the rooms are and how their typical living situations will be in the near future,” Lovell says.
•How can I prepare for a tour?
Look at the college’s Web site to get a feel for the campus and to generate some questions. Lovell is most frequently asked:
— What are the most popular majors?
— What is there to do on the weekends?
— How is campus security?
— How safe is campus?
— How’s the food?
— Why did you decide to come here?
An overnight is when you spend the night in a dorm with a student host. Ask the admissions department at your prospective college if this is an option.
Keep in mind that one overnight might not truly represent what your experience at college will be.
Not ready for an overnight? Ask to shadow a student throughout the day—including going to a class, meeting a professor and having a meal in the cafeteria.
Attend a class
Take the time to sit in on a class in your major. It allows you to see what the class atmosphere is like, what the students are like, and how a professor conducts a college class.
Request info from the school
Have you called a college’s admissions office? Registered for information online? Sent in a business reply card with the college’s of your interest checked?
The more information you get from a college, the better able you’ll be to decide. And it never hurts to show admissions reps how interested you are in the school through several contacts.