Planning your college visit (Part 3 of 3)

What to take with you
To prepare for your college visits, create an academic profile for yourself and take it along to show the various people you meet. Besides showing your academic success, list your extracurricular activities (including sports and music) and any part-time jobs. Also, take a copy of your high school transcript and records of your standardized test scores, like the PSAT, PLAN, ACT, and/or SAT. The profile should also show courses you plan to take to finish your high school program.

Make sure your parents accompany you when you visit a college. They will have their own questions to ask. They need to be with you when talking about college costs. Your college education is a family matter, so your parents must be part of your visits and final selection.

How long should you stay?
Plan your visit for two days, or at least a day and a half. Your visit should consist of two parts.

One of my earlier blogs talked in detail about campus visits. The first part is conducted by the Admissions Office. The staff will want to show you the college and campus, sort of like looking at a new, shiny car in a show room. The second part is looking at all those areas that really define the quality of a college. You need to test drive that car! In my earlier blog, I’ve listed the offices you should visit. Because you’ll want to visit several offices on campus, make sure you have a map of the college and become familiar with it.

One of the first things you’ll do on campus is take a campus tour. Typically a student conducts the tour arranged by the Admissions Office. Again, remember that this is just a general tour to see campus highlights, like the library and a residence hall, the recreation center and a new classroom building, etc. While on the tour, mark various places on your map that you want to visit later on your own. And while your tour guide is like a “salesperson” for the college, make sure you ask him/her about why they chose this college. Does it live up to their expectations?

Although some high-ranking colleges require an interview as part of the application process, a college visit does not constitute an interview. Nevertheless, when you visit any college, think of it as an interview because the admission counselor you meet may record computer notes about your visit that will eventually become part of your application file. So think of each college visit as an interview for a job you really want.

To determine the quality of a college
Get answers to these three simple questions.

1. How well does the college treat/serve you? Assess its service and attitude– from the helpfulness of the admissions office, to the quality of academic advising services for new students, to helping students find a major a degree program.

2. How much will the college help you stay on track to complete a degree in four years? This question goes to the quality of advising and their course scheduling — offering needed courses when they are needed so as not to slow down your progress by a semester or two.

3. How much will the college help you decide on a career and find a job in that area when you graduate? Always keep in mind the amount of money you and your parents will pay for your college education. Make sure you get what you pay for from start to finish.

Putting it in perspective
College is not just the next step in your education. It’s a giant leap. College professors will expect you to be a focused, determined, and mature student. The particular college you finally choose should, therefore, be one that will bring out the best of your intellectual and personal qualities.

This choice cannot be made just at the recommendation of others or from a distance. You need to visit colleges and examine them carefully for yourself. They are all different, and those differences will affect your achievement as a student and comfort as a person. So make sure you know what you’re looking for in a college, visit them, and ask intelligent questions to find out if they’re right for you.

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