Several years ago, I visited the Princeton University campus with my 18-year old son. He wasn’t interested in going to Princeton in fact, that son has zero interest in college. Period. We simply visited to learn some of the university’s history and to see the campus, which is gorgeous. It didn’t hurt that we have a family member who is a faculty member at Princeton to give us the tour. The interesting thing is, after that visit, my son was much more amicable when we approached the subject of college.
So if higher learning is in your child’s plans, make sure you arrange some tours during your child’s junior or senior year of high school. You don’t want to put this off too long. This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make with your child. Preparing for the ACT and SAT, waiting for the test scores, filling out financial aid forms and applications. Applying for and choosing a college can be a stressful process and huge undertaking. College represents so much. It involves a new culture, new responsibilities, new friends, and a whole lot of newfound individuality.
What colleges should you consider and which of those should you visit? College visits can be expensive so you want to make sure you visit those that are a strong contender. Decisions to visit shouldn’t be made simply on vague comments that have been heard about the campus or because you, or your child, like the name or location (though that helps). This is serious stuff.
To choose a college, you need to consider some basic questions. What kind of degrees are available? How far away from home is the campus? What does it cost?
Here are three tips on what to include in those exciting trips to college campuses that could, ultimately, change your lives:
Tip No. 1: Go to Representational Schools
Even if you have a rough idea about where your student would like to go to college, you should tour a sampling of various school types. Visit a large school, like Ohio State or Indiana University or the University of Florida, which have 57,000, 46,000 and 49,000 students, respectively. Then visit some modestly sized schools, then look at a small college or two.
Note that the differences are not just in the size of their football stadiums. Large schools have more class offerings and more professors to choose from. They have a larger variety of facilities, and typically more updated ones, too. They might be situated in larger communities instead of small, isolated campuses.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with a trade school if it suits your child’s lifetime goals. If undecided about college, consider a local community college. Your child can start with basic classes and transfer to another school when they narrow down what area they’re interested in, but don’t assume all credits will transfer. Find out in advance what schools will honor the credit hours.
Tip No. 2: City vs. Country
Your child will be in college for four years or longer, so maybe it is time to sample a fundamental choice between a city and a rural environment.
The University of Chicago, offers top business and law schools, and offers students a chance to explore one of the nation’s greatest cities. Chicago’s fabulous opportunities are abundant, ranging from professional sporting events to world class museums and music.
Or, split the difference. The University of Rochester located in New York is a vital part of the of the modest-sized U.S. city. Gwynedd Mercy University, 30 miles outside of Philadelphia, sits in a more suburban enclave full of all sorts of fun recreational activities and events within the area, while offering a variety of educational programs to choose from.
Tip No. 3: Make Connections
Visiting college campuses should be your child’s start to the wonderful world of networking.
What happens at the college level is an increasing reliance on experts in the field. A physics professor at New York University might be more familiar with a physics professor in San Francisco than with the English professor whose office is just down the hall. Professors are connected to a vast network of other professors in their field and, thanks to the Internet, students are better connected now than they ever have been.
Make use of this. Don’t just settle with asking the admissions officer or the tour guide what the programs might be like. With the digital universe alive and well, ask for names of students and other professors you can talk to. Seek them out during the college visit or connect with them later if time doesn’t permit.
When it comes to college visits, you should be looking at specific courses and professors because you feel they are just right for the student.
Have you spent time visiting colleges? When it comes to choosing a college, what tips would you share?
© 2015, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.