College visits are arranged though an Admissions Office. Call or email this office, and get the name of the admissions counselor you talk to. This is your contact person going forward.
Ask if you will receive printed information before your visit. Let the counselor know that you want to visit several offices (see below), and ask the counselor to set up appointments for you with these offices. While many college admissions counselors try to answer all the questions students and parents have, insist on speaking to people in particular offices because their special knowledge of certain areas will make you better informed. Plus, it’s always helpful to have the names of individual college officials to contact when questions occur to you after your visit.
Confirm your visit with this counselor by email.
- Given your grade point average, SAT and/or ACT scores and your selection of high school courses, are you “acceptable for admission”? The Internet will have given you general information. Here is where you discover your real chances for admission.
- Also, given these same academic qualifications, what will you have to pay each year — factoring in possible scholarships, your family’s annual income, financial aid, and personal expenses?
Ask your admissions counselor to arrange a class visit for you in your area of study, if you’ve chosen one. Otherwise, visit a class typically taken by freshmen – like English, or Foreign Language.
Your admissions counselor will answer general questions about everything from the application process to financial aid. If you have a certain degree program and major in mind, the counselor should arrange a meeting with a person who represents that area. If you have more than one area of study in mind, visit as many appropriate offices and people as you need.
Main places to visit
Besides the Admissions Office these are the other offices you want to visit:
- Financial Aid
- Academic Advising
- College Degree/Major
- Residence Life
- Career Counseling
- Academic Affairs
- Campus Security
Financial Aid. Even though your admissions counselor can offer some information about covering college costs, you need to talk to a financial aid counselor/official to get a good estimate about college cost, specifically in light of your family’s income.
Academic Advising. Academic advisers are assigned to all new students, usually through a central office or through a particular college office of a university. These advisers guide students concerning selecting courses, choosing a major, or changing a major, developing study schedules, and getting through any rough spots.
Some colleges use volunteer faculty as advisers. The best advising is offered through a central office with full-time professional academic advisers. The best colleges support their students with excellent advising services.
Degree/Major. When you apply for admission, you will have to indicate what major(s) you’re interested in and that will determine the specific college within a university in which you will enroll. Have good questions in mind when you visit these offices. In particular, you will want to know what job opportunities you’ll have when you graduate.
If the major you’ve selected is in the sciences or engineering or areas that include laboratory and technical instruction, make sure you tour those facilities. If you are undecided about a major/degree, look at the Liberal Arts and Sciences program. Ask an adviser about selecting a major.
Residence life. Once you understand that you have to “live” at your college, the comforts and convenience of where you will be living take on a new meaning. A residence life official should be able to answer your questions about how comfortable you will be as a student whose full time job is learning.
- Do residence halls have student lounges?
- Do serious students have to find other locations to study outside of dorms?
- Where do students typically study?
Here are more questions. Do residence halls serve healthy food? Are dorm rooms comfortable? What do you do when you discover your roommate never sleeps and likes to watch television while you’re trying to study?
Also, after your second year in college, you may want to live “off campus.” What service does Residence Life for students renting apartments?
Student Affairs. This office manages the non-academic areas of student life — everything from sports activities to social volunteer activities; from spiritual development to healthy living. Find out what services, organizations, and activities are offered.
Campus safety. Visit the college security office and get information about campus crime and student vulnerability. Safety issues are a reality of college life that must be taken seriously. Colleges are required to provide current and past crime statistics to anyone who wants them. Make sure you do.
Career Counseling. Colleges that are as interested in their students success after graduation have a well-staffed Career Services Office dedicated to career selection and job application. These offices invite representatives of companies to campus. These companies are interested in hiring graduates with various majors. Make sure the Career Office serves liberal arts graduates, too. You are expecting this education to take you somewhere, and you’re looking for support from the college.
Ask lots of questions
When visiting colleges, you should ask as many questions as you can. Your parents will have questions, but make sure that, as a prospective student, you are the one who does most of the talking.
Some questions students forget to ask
How many students graduate on time (four years)? Remember: You want a graduation rate for the particular area you will be enrolled in, not just a composite of the whole college or university.
What is the rate of job placements of graduates?
What are your chances of getting scholarships or grants?
How much financial aid will you qualify for, given your family’s income?
How many students drop out after one year?
When registering for courses, what happens when a course you need to stay on a degree track is closed? The answer may translate into added expenses for you.
What extra personal costs will you encounter?
Next time: what to take with you; how long you should stay; evaluating a college, and putting it all in perspective.