“It’s his senior year of high school, for goodness sakes! Why am I feeling such dread?” one parent recently asked me. “I thought I’d be dancing with joy. He’s a senior; almost an adult. But instead I’m feeling scared and filled with questions. He told me he needs to visit a few colleges. I have no idea where to begin. Help!”
This Mom’s feelings are quite normal. Your child isn’t a baby anymore, and he or she will soon be embarking on their first real journey away from home. It can be scary, especially for parents who never attended college themselves.
The college admissions’ process has become overwhelming and difficult to navigate. One of the steps I consider to be the most important and most overlooked, is the all-important college visit. It ‘s like buying a home. You certainly wouldn’t make such a large purchase without a walk through, checking everything out and, making sure you are getting exactly what you need.
The same holds true for a college visit. You want to walk the campus, check out the classrooms, dorms and student center, talk to current students, eat the food and make sure your student will get a quality education in a safe environment.
Colleges have certainly changed in the last 30 years, and college visits have become an essential part of the admissions process. Most colleges today track the number of times a student visits the campus and/or contacts an admissions’ counselor. I now advise my students to be sure to contact the admissions’ office of their first-choice school.
In scheduling and planning your college visit, take these steps to help with your decisions:
- Do your research. Know the basic facts about the college, including size, majors, activities and sports, so that you can ask questions during your visit.
- When scheduling college visits, make sure you sign up for a tour by a current student. These usually last about an hour. Also make sure you tour one of the dorms.
- If possible, schedule an interview with an admissions’ counselor while you are there – especially if this is your first-choice college.
- Eat a meal in one of the dining halls and strike up a conversation with some of the other students. Ask them why they chose that school and if they’re happy with their decisions.
- Pick up a student newspaper. This will give you an idea of campus life and issues of concern to the students.
- Ask to speak to someone in financial aid and ask them to tell you the percentage of merit aid awarded to students. I also caution families not to panic when they see the sticker price; most schools’ offer aid to minimize that price. But it’s helpful to have an idea of the price, and to be realistic with your student about what you can afford.
- Drive or walk around the town. What is there to do for students nearby? Where’s the nearest supermarket or Walmart? How safe is it?
- If you want to play a sport, schedule a meeting with the coach.
- If you know what your major is, ask your admissions’ counselor if you can have contact information for the head of that department. Get in touch with that person via email, text or phone.
- Take photos to help you remember details of the campus.
- Following your visit, email a ‘thank you’ note to your admissions’ counselor and anyone else that you want to remember you.
Interested in receiving one on one support with the college process? I can help. As your child’s personal counselor throughout the college search, application, essays and financial aid process, I help him to stay on track, meet those all-important deadlines, and take the pressure off of you. And, with my years of experience and knowledge, I can also support you in avoiding huge college debt. Contact me at 240-285-1920 or firstname.lastname@example.org