March 15, 2012
The decision to go to college is a major one, and it’s important that students, along with their families, make the right choices. Colleges are not a ‘one size fit all’, as they vary by type, size, quality of education, affordability, location, accolades and many other factors. Because these variables exist, families are encouraged to visit the schools deemed as “best fit” prior to making a final decision. This is not a choice to be made lightly!
Only after thoroughly reviewing and comparing colleges from a student’s initial wish list can a family determine “best fit” and move forward with confidence they are effectively and efficiently utilizing their financial resources, time and energy in the college selection journey.
With the end of the year quickly approaching, this is prime time for sophomore and junior students and/or families to visit colleges and universities. Therefore, families need to have a strategic plan of action on when and how this visit should be executed. Below are some tips on how to get the most out of your college visits to ensure you make the right decision.
- Plan Ahead (start early) – you want to make sure the college/university is in session and see if there are special times allocated for visits. Always check the college/university website for instructions to “New, Future or Prospect” Students. This helps you maximize your experience and time.
- Contact the Admissions Office – make your visit known. Request to sit in on a class or two, interview professors and students in the department you plan to pursue, setup a meeting with career services, financial aid and dean/department chair of the department you plan to pursue. If you plan to pursue sports, band, cheerleading, etc., try to schedule a meeting with those areas and/or get information on the requirements for pursuing these areas of interest. This shows your level of seriousness about the college/university and a college degree.
- Be Prepared – upon your arrival to the campus, verify you have all of your questions, paperwork, and campus visit checklist (provided in my book). Plan to arrive at least an hour early to visit the campus on your own and ensure you are on time for scheduled appointments and tours. Dress nice and comfortable for the climate and walking. Being organized and prepared shows great leadership characteristics and professionalism that makes admission officers and university leaders happy to add you to the family.
- Explore the Campus – be sure to explore every aspect of the campus outside the scheduled tours so you get a full view of campus life. If possible, eat in the cafeteria to experience the food, attend a campus activity to check out school spirit and get a feel of the environment. This will help you determine if this is the right fit and whether it’s an environment you can be successful in.
- Stay the Night – consider asking to spend the night in a dorm so you can gain a genuine campus experience. If you can’t during your visit, ask if there is an overnight experience at a later time for you to participate in. This opportunity affords you to build confidence in what the experience could be at the “nontraditional” visiting times.
- Go Off-Campus – visit the surrounding areas of the campus, the town/city, apartments students typically stay in, shopping venues, bookstores, etc. to get a feel for the character of the town/city and what it has to offer to your college experience. A student’s college experience is not limited to what takes place on the campus. It can be affected by what surrounds the campus. As students move off campus, it’s important for families to review the housing conditions to prepare themselves for when that time comes.
- Notate the Visit – as mentioned before, utilize the campus visit checklist provided in my book to capture the characteristics and feelings of each college visit. Doing this will allow you to review and compare once you return home and prepare to make a decision on how to move forward.
- Send Thank You Notes – after returning home, be sure to send thank you notes to everyone you spoke to/met with on the college/university faculty and administration team. This is a great courtesy and a way to be remembered by those in power to make your campus transition and experience seamless. Building relationships and nurturing them are always beneficial, so don’t take the opportunity lightly.
*Bonus Tip – the last statement was on the importance of building and nurturing relationships. In that same vain, it is highly recommended that families reach out to the key administrative people at the college/university (financial aid officer, dean, etc.) at least once a month to stay abreast of any changes, new opportunities and to keep your student’s name at the forefront of their mind.
More tips for determining the “best fit” can be found in my book, A Road to Success: The College Preparatory & Planning Guide
As you can imagine, becoming college ready and transitioning to college is an arduous, but rewarding task.
When it’s done correctly and in a timely manner, life can be less stressful and the financial burden minimized. So, if you are the parent of a sophomore or junior, don’t wait, please take these tips and put them to work today. At the same time, know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. But with faith, guidance, knowledge and proper research, this can turn from a stressful time into a positive, informative experience for the entire family!
B.L.O.G Magazine Contributing Writer
Tameka is the Amazon Best Selling Author of A Road to Success: The College Preparatory & Planning Guide and a Certified Coach, Speaker and Trainer for the John Maxwell Team, is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a graduate of Southern University A&M College with a Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and Webster University with a Masters of Business Administration. Tameka is focused on living out the purpose God has ordained for her life. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.celestialsent.com
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