College visits are essential components of any thorough college search process. These thumbnail experiences guide informed decisions in many ways: they allow for a brief window into your child’s possible future and expose them to the many criteria ultimately involved in the final school selection. Visiting students feel the campus culture and interact with potential peers, professors and administrators. For both you and your student to get the most out of these visits, be sure to plan ahead and build an itinerary that touches on key aspects of college life.
Be sure to gather and review all the information you can about admissions standards, degree programs, and academic rigor beforehand. Students need to find schools where they’ll feel comfortable and can see themselves socially, but also where they’ll find the academic rigor and programs they need. The research process will help you discover what kind of environment your child wants to call home for the next four years.
Have your student research non-academic variables at the college, including the local area. Does your student see herself leaving campus for musical entertainment or does she want the excitement of on-campus Division I sports teams? The regional culture and surroundings of small towns versus city campuses appeal to different kids. Urban, northeastern universities with their ivy-laden facades, rolling hills and boxy skylines stand apart from the expertly-manicured, Romanesque institutions that dot the south or the sunny, ocean-side campuses along the coasts. These critical details lend context as you start to narrow the vast array of college choices.
Yet above all these critical details stands an important element in the best-fit college search. The first rule of successful college visits is easy to remember: don’t visit a college you can’t afford! Tuition, room and board, and the various and sundry other costs of school are inextricably linked with the college experience. So do your homework. Often, college consulting companies have the expertise to inform you what a college will cost you, BEFORE you head out the door.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: College Assistance Plus is a college consulting company that focuses on your student’s future academically and socially, but most importantly, financially. CAPlus has educated thousands of families about the college search process. From the first college visit through graduation, CAPlus offers comprehensive services to save your family time and money.