Friday, March 21, 2008

Doing College Visits

Well, I do have to spend some time with my family - I can't be blogging ALL the time you know.

Wednesday and Thursday we spent the time in Boston area visiting prospective colleges. It was great fun.

So I'll share with you a piece I wrote about college visits:

Shopping for College

Aside from exploring scholarship opportunities, if you are considering attending college in the fall then you should start visiting colleges that you are interested in spring and summer prior to the fall semester. The guideline is to start visiting colleges as early as April of your "junior year". This is because most college applications have to be into the colleges you are applying to by December of your Senior year. Visiting college in the summer may not give you the opportunity to experience the college atmosphere, as when all students are on campus, but sometimes it is the only time when one can visit. Return to colleges that you are most interested in, during the fall semester of your "senior year". Go for the day and plan to visit classes, talk to students, and do some interviews, portfolio reviews or auditions. Make an appointment to talk to the College financial aid people as well. College visits are very important. Get your hands on "The Complete Guide to College Visits", by Spencer and Maleson. Use your campus visits as an opportunity to "get the feel" of a school and to get a sense of the place. Campus tours are available through the admissions departments, and it is a great time for you to ask questions about the campus and college life in general.

A student, who is most often a paid member of the admissions staff, usually conducts the campus tours. These students are trained to show you the important parts of the campus, to answer your questions, and to give you information about the school. The tours usually last about an hour and will include visits to the library, student center, athletic facility, dorms, and classrooms and if appropriate, school laboratories. Sometimes the school may provide meal vouchers for you to try out the food in the cafeteria. This is a good time to ask questions that would give you a student's perspective.

Some things to do in preparation for a visit are:
1. Schedule an appointment in advance by phone, or by letter. Some schools require notice several months in advance.
2. See your first choice last. Practice your interviewing techniques at colleges that are low on your list first.
3. Read their college catalog to become familiar with the college offerings and other information. They will like to see that you have a real interest in their school.
4. Bring along copies of your standardized test scores and homeschool transcripts if possible. The Admissions office may give some insight into specific materials that they may wish you to include with your college application.
5. Create a resume and bring it along with you. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your interests.
6. Dress properly - being neat, clean, and dressing conservatively will never hurt you.
7. Be prompt. Allow sufficient time to arrive at the campus before your visit. Call ahead if you know you will be late for your appointment. Be careful to find out where parking is acceptable so you don’t get ticketed on campus.
8. Go over a list of questions that you want to ask as well as some that you think will be asked of you - and practice interviewing with friends or members of your family.

Some questions to ask:
Where do students study? Are there quiet floors? Are there single sex dorms? Are there co-ed dorms? Are there substance free dorms (no smoking)? What percentage of students remains on campus during the weekends? What are the library hours? Fitness center hours? Are there fraternities and sororities on campus? What percentage of students participate? What is social life like for students that do not participate? What inter-collegiate or inter-mural sports are available? What services are available to students? Counseling? Career counseling? Free health care? Tutoring? Help with finding employment? Are there learning abroad programs? Internships? Mentoring? Can you cook in your dorm room? What happens if you get a roommate that you don't like? Have there been problems with availability of campus housing? How is campus security? Where is wireless Internet available?

I think you get the idea. Use this as an opportunity to find out about the place where you may be spending the next four years of your life.

As for the interview, come prepared with a list of questions and be ready to answer questions on such topics as: subjects you are interested in, how you spent the last four years, books that are important to you, reasons why you want to attend college, career plans, your strengths and weaknesses. Above all, relax and be yourself.

Shopping for school can be fun, and you can even make it a family road-trip!

I can say that the college admissions counselors that we spoke to were very enthusiastic about homeschooled applicants. We were welcomed with open arms.

Seeing all of the wonderful choices that my daughter has narrowed her search to is so exciting. We've seen some fantastic schools with amazing facilities. The world truly is her oyster!