Now that school is back in session, it might be a good time to sit down w/ your son or daughter (or if you’re a high school student reading this, sit down w/ Mom and Dad) and start planning some college visits. There is no better way to determine if a school might be a good fit than to tour the campus, see the facilities, dorm rooms, cafeteria, surrounding town……Where to start?
For the sophomore and junior in high school: If you haven’t done any research yet, the best place to start is by determining how far away the student is willing to consider (realistically). Then try and determine what the student is most interested in studying (no one needs to be set on a particular major at 16 years old but if they have some ideas, that might be helpful) and then determine which colleges offer those areas of study and which ones are notoriously strong in those programs. Make an initial list of colleges and then begin eliminating ones that don’t fit the student academically (look at acceptance rates and average ACT / SAT scores). Don’t initially eliminate schools because of cost; while you don’t want to apply to nothing but $50,000 / year colleges if that’s out of your price range, many of those schools can be made more affordable through merit scholarships and need based programs.
Once you have a reasonable list of colleges to try and visit (5-10), begin looking at your schedule vs. when the colleges offer tours and information sessions. Try and give the colleges at least two weeks notice prior to your visit. If at all possible, try and go when the college is in session as this will give the student the best idea of what a “typical” day looks like on that particular campus.
Once on campus, take notes. Take notes on anything and everything that either impresses you or turns you off about that school; from academic offerings, class size, athletic facilities, dorms, and financial aid to the surrounding town or city. Have a list of questions prepared to ask the admissions officer if they don’t cover it during the presentation.
And most importantly – as hectic as this time might be, try and enjoy it. It’s a very important time in a student’s life. They are trying to determine where to spend the first years of their lives outside of their parent’s home not to mention where they will receive the best education for whatever it is they decide to do.