April 13, 2018

Tips for the college visit by Sue Hatfield

In order to get a valuable glimpse of college life, it is highly recommended that prospective students visit colleges and universities when they are in session. Many campuses schedule “Open Houses” for interested students and their parents. Families should check the academic calendars for each school before planning visits. The high school counseling/advising centers announce college Open House sessions as well. It is important to make an appointment to visit through the admissions offices.

Families can learn a great deal about various institutions through online research as well as from
college admission reps who regularly visit the high schools. Knowing the general characteristics of the colleges and universities ahead of time, such as the number of students enrolled, costs, majors offered, housing options, sports/activities, student services, admission requirements and deadlines, etc., leads to a more meaningful visit.

Determining the best campus “fit” for any individual involves gaining prior knowledge before choosing one’s college or university. Preparing a list of specific questions concerning each prospective student’s academic, athletic, and social interests, as well as their personal preferences and needs can help each individual find colleges and universities that will be good choices to consider.

The campus tour and information sessions are important parts of the college visit, but families should consider dining in a campus cafeteria, visiting several dorms, the library, and athletic facilities. They should also check out the centers that provide student services (such as health, tutoring, computer, and career planning/placement) to learn as much as possible about what each campus offers students for support while attending and then transitioning to the world of work in the future. Prospective students can also ask to sit through a class or two.

High school juniors may have the option of scheduling mandatory or recommended interviews while
visiting campuses in the spring or summer. These must be scheduled through the admissions offices well ahead of time. Either admissions counselors, faculty or alumni may conduct these interviews. College interviews are designed to allow the interviewers to get to know the prospective students and also for these individuals to get an accurate impression of what the institutions have to offer.

Applicants for admission should have done their research on the colleges/universities prior to any interviews and be prepared to articulate why they are interested in each particular institution and what they hope to accomplish during their college careers. They should also be able to indicate how each institution will help them reach their personal, educational and career goals.

Following the college visits, families should jot down notes to save and compare concerning their impressions of each campus and student body. Prospective students should formally thank the admissions staff members and interviewers for the time and information they shared during campus visits.

Suzanne Hatfield is a certified school counselor who worked in Maine high schools for twenty years before her retirement.

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