Spring Break is coming up for most high school students, so college visits should be on your mind. Since you probably want to see some schools before they break for the summer (and for most schools, that’s early- to – mid May), now is the time to go!
Here’s some sensible advice:
1. You should plan to visit schools by geography. Many kids from my area of the US do a loop around Pennsylvania (Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, maybe UDelaware), Or they do the Boston area run (Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern, maybe Emerson). Or perhaps the New York State trip (SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Cortland, Cornell/Ithaca College, Syracuse). You may want to visit a few colleges in the same general area, but I think you should limit yourself to two or three a day; otherwise, the whole experience can be overwhelming. Make hotel reservations if you think you’ll need them.
2. Sign up online for tours. Some schools print a schedule and you just go on any tour that’s convenient, but many require you to sign up in advance. Do that. You’ll get a much, much better sense of the school on a tour than just wandering around on your own.
3, Find out if you can interview with an admissions person. Very often, they’ll have something called an information session or a one-on-one with someone in admissions. Whether it’s a real interview or just a meet-and-greet, dress casually but be clean and neat, smile and shake hands, and have a few questions ready (and make sure the answers aren’t on the school’s website). Good questions might be about your major (How easy is it to change majors? How many professors are in that department? How many students graduate with that major? Does the school assign a faculty advisor to you?), about housing (Do they house all freshman together? Are there substance-free houses or theme houses? Do they guarantee housing for sophomores and juniors?), or anything else that interests you.
4. While you’re at the interview or while you’re walking around the science building/ performing arts center/ library/ other building of interest, send your parents to the cafeteria. You can meet them there afterwards. NO parents should go with you on an interview ever, even if the school allows it. That gives the impression that your parents don’t trust you to handle the interview on your own. Instead, parents should be in the cafeteria, asking students questions that would embarrass their children to hear. Parents, find a random student and ask questions like, “Would you choose this school again? If you had a cousin interested in economics (or whatever major your student is interested in), would you send him here? What’s the worst thing about this school?” You’d be surprised how honest students can be.
5. Take pictures as you go around on tours or write on brochures. Six months from now, you won’t remember which schools had the great dining halls or the well-stocked labs.
It’s not imperative that you visit every school you will apply to, but you want to take a look at several schools that are on your “probably” list. If you get into Harvard, do you care what the dorms look like? If you only get into a school on the bottom of your safety list, who cares what the student lounges are like – you’re going. You might want to see one urban, one suburban, and one rural school. You might want to see a large school and a small school.
Yes, you can see schools in the summer, but it’s not the same without students there. Yes, you can see schools in the fall, but you probably want to be applying to some schools early action – which means your applications must be completely done and submitted by mid-October.
So the time to go looking at colleges is right now! Let me know if you have any questions.