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Visiting Colleges!

Visiting Colleges!

The spring of junior year is the time to plan college visits. Here are some tips.

By FamilyTime

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If your child is a high school junior, it's not too early to think about visiting colleges. Spring of junior year, summer between junior and senior year, and early fall of senior year is when you should plan these information-gathering visits.

Depending on where you live, 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 you have 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 - even summer school.

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

What to Do on Campus
When you step on a campus, consider the physical plant. How large is the school? Are the buildings and grounds maintained? Are there inviting areas where students congregate?

Attend the information session offered by the admission office. This may sound like a bore, but if you listen carefully and ask good questions, you will learn a lot about the college or university.

Go on the tour. These are carefully planned to show the best side of the school, but are designed to give you glimpses of the library, cafeteria, classroom buildings, and dormitories.

Tour guides are trained to answer commonly asked questions, so take full advantage of their time.

Both students and parents should keep a list of impressions and answers to specific questions. Students should be encouraged to ask questions - although parents should not be shy about speaking up.

Find out how large average classes are and if professors or graduate students teach them. Ask to visit a class - this usually can be arranged. If the prospective student is interested in a particular major, ask about that.

Ask what percentage of the freshman class returns, and what percentage graduate in four years.

If you are planning to take studio art classes or will try out for the swimming team, ask to see the facilities.

Find out if the college has fraternities and sororities and how active Greek life is. What are some of the most popular extra curricular activities?

Ask about security, on and off campus. How do most students get to town? If the college is in a city, ask about local neighborhoods. How many students live off campus? Can residential students have cars?

As you are whisked from one end of the campus to the other, scan bulletin boards in public places and dorm hallways to see what sort of activities are taking place. Pick up a copy of the college newspaper to read later.

Be a careful observer. It will tell you a lot about campus life.

Try an Overnight
Most colleges offer prospective students the chance to spend the night. Parents should encourage these visits and students should take advantage of them.

As a student, visualize how you will feel being part of this campus. What can you tell from a night in a dorm? Is it quiet? Do most kids seem to be studying? What's the conversation like in the cafeteria?

Talk to as many other students as you can. Ask them what they like and, equally importantly, what they don't like about the college. Try to get beyond complaining about the food!

Find out what happens on weekends. Do most kids stay around? What are the parties like? Ask your host how often he or she has gone home since school began.

Ask the students how much time they devote to studying, how much sleep they average.

Investigate important aspects of college life: are the bathrooms co-ed? Is smoking allowed? Are there substance-free floors? Dorms?

You may be surprised to discover you love a college you never thought you would - and that the school you were sure was "it" is not too interesting.

Use the college visit as an important - but not the only - criterion for making your final choice. Remember, you will be living there for four years.

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