Plan Now for College Visits

It is nearly the time for college visits.

By FamilyTime


If your child is a high school junior, you probably are thinking about visiting colleges this spring, and if your child is a senior, it may be time to visit those schools you have not yet seen. Spring of junior year, summer between junior and senior year, and early fall of senior year are when you should plan these information-gathering visits.

Depending on your child's situation, you may only need to visit one or two colleges or universities. Or your child may have a list of colleges a mile long.

If the list is unwieldy or unrealistic, urge your son or daughter to narrow it down. It might be fun to visit Harvard, but unless your child has a shot, why bother?

Visit Top Choices
If possible, visit all the colleges on the short list. This will include top choices as well as a safety. It's most helpful to visit when school is in session, which is why early spring is a good time, and so you may want to plan now.

Visiting colleges is time consuming and expensive, but few things help a student make up her mind more easily than a physical reaction to an environment.

Do the Research
Before you and your child set out for campus, there are a few things you should do and plan for.

Encourage your child to visit the colleges’ web sites (and go there yourself, too). There, he can take virtual tours which, while no substitute for actual visits, will give him an idea of what to expect at each college on the list.

The web site will list the schedules for information sessions and guided tours. Both are invaluable and for most colleges don’t require a reservation – although if they do, you will discover that on the web site, as well.

The information session is a group meeting where a representative from the admissions office addresses prospective students about the college. This is a good opportunity to ask general questions about curriculum and campus life. A lot of questions are answered during these sessions -- even some you didn't realize you had!

The guided campus tour is usually led by a student at the college. Candidates for admission can see classrooms, dorm rooms, cafeterias, gyms, and art studios. These campus tours are casual enough so that the high schoolers feel free to ask all sorts of questions of the tour guide. Not surprisingly, many of these questions are about the college’s social and political life.

If the college is one of your child’s top choices, she may want to have an interview. Call ahead to schedule this during the time you plan to tour the campus. The admission’s office is likely to be swamped with requests, so the earlier you or your child calls, the better.

A little later, we will run a column about how to make the most of the college visit when you are actually on campus. Stay tuned!