Visiting Colleges and Universities (Part 1 of 3)

Summer is a good time to visit colleges. It’s a convenient time for both you and your family. (Don’t forget to take your parents along!) And because colleges offer courses even during the summer months, you can visit classes and talk to enrolled students.

When should you visit college?

You could start as early as the summer after your sophomore year—although most students visit colleges in the summer after their junior year. Naturally, you can visit colleges any time of the year, as long as students are present. You want to talk to students while you’re there. Don’t visit between semesters and during holidays.

Why visit?

True, every college has an Internet site that presents all its exciting features to inform and impress you. So why visit colleges in person? Would you buy a house without walking through it from attic to basement, looking at all the rooms and in all the corners and closets? Of course not.

The same is true of “buying” a college — especially considering the financial investment you and your parents will make in your college education. When you select a college, you want to choose one that you have examined from top to bottom. Just because you like a college’s football team, doesn’t mean you’ll like the college academically. Just because a friend or relative really likes a particular college doesn’t mean you will.

You want to check out colleges in person, not just look at photographs of buildings and students online. Visiting colleges is a very important part of selecting a college. It helps you discover the “right” college that fits you and your personality. So take your college visits seriously and plan for them carefully.

What you can and should learn from the Internet

College Internet sites are filled with good basic information which you should study before you visit. As you cruise college web sites, take notes about questions you want to ask. It’s the way you do your “homework” before visiting any college. Here is what to look for first:

  • What majors (areas of study) and degree programs does the college (or university) offer? Are they ones you’re interested in?
  • What are the admission requirements:
    • high school courses?
    • high school grade-point average?
    • SAT and ACT scores?
    • application essays, interviews, and recommendations?

Of course, you want to know about cost: tuition, room, and board — and what scholarships and financial aid are available to pay for these. (One of the main things you learn on your visit.) College is very expensive. There’s no question about that. But remember that during a life time of earning, a person with a college degree makes twice as much money as a person without one. And a college degree opens doors to careers and gives you job flexibility.

Why you need to choose carefully

Did you know that 1 out of 4 college freshmen do not return sophomore year to the same college they first enrolled in? Some students don’t return after the first semester. There are several reasons for this, but one is that they don’t “like” the college that they chose. Why? They didn’t know enough about it before they made their decision. Now these students have to reapply to another college and hope that all of their credits transfer. If they don’t, the student has just extended the length and cost of his/her education.

How many colleges should you visit?

Even before you make any college visits, you should talk to your parents and high school counselor about the colleges that interest you and why you think they might be right for you. Do not settle on just one college. BIG MISTAKE. Even if you have a first choice in mind, you can only make a good final decision by comparing it with at least two other colleges. Many students look at and apply to as many as five or six colleges. The Internet makes applying to multiple colleges simpler.

You may not believe this, but it’s true: You can be happy at several colleges — if you chose them carefully. Don’t limit yourself to a single choice. If it falls through, you’ll be scrambling.

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