Campus Visits… Bring Em’ On! by Bryan G. Nance
This entry will focus on the dos and don'ts of a fall visit to a college or university that you are interested in attending.
If I’m not mistaken this is the time of year when you begin in earnest to think about where to apply for college. For some of you it means going through the mountains of mail that various schools have been so gracious to send you. I know that most of you will put it all in a big box glance at the material once, then place it all by the curb to be recycled.
Why do we send you all of that stuff? Good question. The answer is that we hope you’ll like enough of what you see to want to apply for admission or at least want to come for a visit. So, you go through the box, pull out 10 schools that seem promising… what do you do next? Go visit if you can, silly! This entry will focus on the dos and don’ts of a fall visit to a college or university that you are interested in attending.
Rules of Engagement
- Do not let the cost of tuition dictate where you visit or where you apply. At this point you should not care how much a school costs. You are in the process of determining where to apply at this point.The only way to know that you can’t afford a school is after you’ve applied, have been accepted and you have applied for and received your financial aid award. Until all of that has happened, you have no idea what you can afford.
- Choose wisely, because time is money. Given your course load and extra-curriculars do you really think that you’ll have the time to visit 10 schools?
- Choose wisely, because money is money. Visiting colleges can be an expensive proposition. Make sure that you are going to a place that you are REALLY, REALLY interested in attending.
- Whenever possible, attend an official campus preview. Most will take place during one of the many fall federal holidays.
- If money is a concern, contact the college that you are interested in visiting to see if they offer subsidized visitation programs. Before you ask, MIT does not. sorry :-(
- Do your homework. Learn as much about the the place that you plan to attend. Know when the information sessions and campus tours are given, then plan your day around those two activities.
- Did I mention that you should attend the information session and campus tour? P.S. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! All tours are walking tours and many can last as long as 90 minutes… even in the driving rain.
- Ask if it is possible to have lunch with a current student. If yes, ask to eat at the most popular student hangout.
- Traveling as a family can be stressful. Agree ahead of time what you will do together and what you will do separately. This will keep all involved sane. Here are a few examples: Together – Campus Tours, Campus Information Sessions, Financial Aid Sessions.
- Go it alone at some point during the visit. You need to know if the the place that you are visiting is where you want to spend the next 4 years of your life. Go to the place were students congregate and just hang out. Check the vibe. See if it is your kind of place.
- Parents: while your child is off discovering the campus, you should use that time to visit places of interest to you. Go to Campus Safety and find out how that institution plans to keep your baby out of harm’s way; check out the banking facilities, check to see which cell phone providers offer the plans an coverage in that area; eat a meal in one of the campus dining facilities; travel as the students do to see how far of a walk the dormitories, class rooms and other campus hot spots are from each other.
- Get off the beaten path. Visit the Office of Minority Affairs and find out first hand what kinds of activities and cultural events are available to students; Visit the student center to see what kinds of clubs are offered. If possible, pick one and attend their meeting. Visit the town surrounding the College. Depending on the location of the school, it may be an extension of the university.
- Go visit your intended major/department. Again, plan ahead and see if you can meet with a professor.
- Randomly walk up to students and ask their opinion of the place that you are visiting. I’ve found that students will always be candid with you. (There is one caveat: every student hates his or her school during mid-term and finals week!)
- If you are adventurous, plan an individualized visit. Many schools (including MIT) have overnight visiting programs that are designed to give you a first hand view of the college by having you stay overnight with a current undergraduate student. What better way to lean about a college?
- Take notes! There is no way that you are going to remember everything, especially if you visit multiple schools. If your parents accompany you to the visit ask them to also take notes so that you can compare on the trip home. Remember, if you ask your parents to take notes, you have to listen to what they have to say. Be sure to give clear directives about the things that are important to you. Use that as a basis for “note-taking” guidelines. If you went it alone, notes can helpful in conveying your experience to you parents, guidance counselor, etc. when you return home. Above all else, come late October and you trying to remember why you wanted to apply early to a school in the first place.
While on Campus, here are 9(ish) questions to ask:
- What are weekends like?
- What is the Financial Aid process. What are the deadlines? Are you need-based or merit-based? What kinds of scholarships are available to me? Does work study mean that I’ll get a hair-net & spoon for the food line a campus dining?
- How much is the average financial aid award? How much of that is covered by loans?
- What is your overall retention rate? What is the retention rate for minority students?
- What kind of services do you offer students in making the transition from HS to college? Be sure that you get an answer that covers both academic and socialscenarios.
- Do you offer the academic program that I’m interested in? What other majors fit my study interests? (This is very important for Pre-Med, Pre-Law & Pre-Vet as most colleges do not have any pre- majors)
- Are there any rules or guidelines that are unique to your college application process? For example, MIT strongly encourages Educational Counselor interviews; and West Point requires a letter of recommendation from a US Senator.
- Are there any rules or guidelines that are unique to your college? For example, The University of Virginia has a very strict honor code and at MIT even if you major in Music and Theater Arts you still receive a bachelors of Science degree upon graduation.
- Whom should I contact if I have more questions?
Give this a try and let me know how it worked out for you. Did I leave something out? Drop me a line and let me know. (This means you too, parents!) Enough from me. Let me know what you think!