It is important to visit schools that your student might potentially apply to, but it is equally important to maximize your campus visit.
Contact the Admissions OfficeWhen planning to visit a college, one should contact the admissions office a few weeks prior to your arrival. This is a small, yet important step in the college application. First off, this confirms the office is open that day, along with a time, location and understanding of the programs available that day. Schools might also be able to provide a personal tour guide. Perhaps this student is in a major or participates in an extracurricular activity of interest to your student. Often, admission's offices prepare personal packages of information for potential students who visit their campus.
Contacting the admissions office while on campus is extremely important, especially when applying to competitive schools. Participating in a campus visit shows 'demonstrated interest.' This will help enhance your application and express your interest in the school is genuine. Colleges maintain a log of families that have contacted the school. They want to ensure that if accepted, the student will most likely attend. This is especially important for marginal candidates and can be the difference between acceptance, waitlisted or denial. But of course, do not burden the office. Admission office's understands the difference between genuine interest and pestering!Another reason to contact the admissions office ahead of time is to make an appointment with the regional admission's representative. This is the first person that will read your application. It would behoove a potential candidate to provide the opportunity for the school to learn about you and your background, placing a face with the application.
Lastly, every attempt should be made to visit a school if they are within a few hours of your home. Schools will expect you take that extra effort to come to their campus. Many times, a school will have a dining or lodging recommendation. Perhaps the school will even provide a complimentary meal in the cafeteria and/or help to defray some of the travel expenses if they know you are coming.See The Negatives!
This may be the most difficult aspect of the college search, especially if there is infatuation with a particular school. When on campus, it is important to seek out the negatives regarding a potential school. Colleges will always have the friendly tour guide to highlight the positive aspects of their campuses. But will they show you the negatives? Of course not. They are selling you on the school. It is better to find the things you may not enjoy about the campus while on a tour, than once your son or daughter is enrolled.Ask Good Questions
Make sure to ask thought provoking, honest questions when on campus. Most people will speak freely about the school, campus and students. Admission's representatives understand that not everyone is the proper fit for their campus.Two questions I always ask:
To the student tour guide: In additional to this school, to what other colleges did you apply? The student tour guide will provide valuable information regarding similar schools that might be a better fit for your student. This answer usually includes why they choose that particular college and provide a feel for the type of student on campus.To the student tour guide or admissions representative: If you could change one thing about this campus/school, what would it be? This is a good question because you are asking to hear about a negative aspect of the campus, but phrasing it in a positive way. The person answering will be more inclined to answer the question, while highlighting potential shortcomings at the school.
Write Down InformationBring a notebook to write down all the information that you learned about the school during your visit. After you have visited multiple campuses, inevitably each campus will blend together. Your notes will help differentiate campuses at a later date.
What to write down? Besides the negative aspects of each campus, it is suggested you make a list of interests that are important to your family. Do these items include special programs, particular professors, or theatre facilities? Perhaps there is more interested in dorm rooms, recreation centers, libraries or study areas? Make a list and keep a log of those aspects at each campus. Do not forget to snap photos on your cell phone or tablet!All these tips are vital to making an informed decision about one's future college. A little extra research goes a long way.
Tom Jaworski will be taking his own advice when he participates in the HOOT (Heart Of Ohio Tour) College Tour April 14-18. He will return with great information on 7 Ohio schools, look for these colleges in upcoming blogs!