Plan Ahead to gain the most from college visits

Some families have plans for  college visits during the upcoming Spring Break, but If your family doesn’t have that on the agenda and you have a high school student, or even a middle school student, it can be a worthy side trip to add a college tour or two to your plans.   Campus visits are a great way for younger students to learn about different types of colleges.    College visits give high school juniors an opportunity to figure out if the school has the right “feel or vibe,”  while a senior can confirm whether or not the school is the place he wants to call “home” for the next four years.  These visits are well worth the time and cost.  The following tips will help make the most of your visit:

It is best to make reservations for a campus tour via the school’s website before your visit.  However, even if you don’t have a reservation, many schools maintain staff members or student volunteers year-round who are available to conduct campus tours without prior arrangement.

If the student is considering applying to or attending the school, she should try to make appointments with an admissions representative, faculty or department heads, and a member of the school’s Career Services department.   If a student has unique talents (i.e., music or art), the campus visit is an ideal time to make an appointment with a department member for an audition or to share a portfolio. Prior to these appointments, the student should prepare questions. The more information the student can uncover, the better equipped he will be to make choices. Visits with the aforementioned people also provide a chance for the student to make a favorable and hopefully memorable impression.   

A campus visit also is a great time for the student to attend a class; the admissions office or specific academic department can help arrange this.  Although the class lecture may be over the student’s head, he will get a closer look at the students who attend the school and see an example of the school’s educational expectations, professor teaching styles, and classroom norms or behaviors.  

On tour, your guide will be an enthusiastic student, eager to show off his school, and happy to answer questions. Lag behind and encourage your student to ask some pointed questions to get beyond the school’s glossy marketing. Ask the guide what his plans are after graduation. Is there something he wishes the school offered but does not? Is there something that jumps out as the most valuable experience at school? Ask about accessibility to professors or internships; find out what students typically do for fun, and the attributes of the student body. If not included on the tour, make sure you see the library, the bookstore, athletic facilities, a dorm, and a cafeteria.  After the tour, get a feel for the community around campus. Where is the closest pizza place? How is the bus system? What recreation opportunities are close by?  

Armed with the information gleaned from a college visit, your student is much closer to making a right fit college choice.

Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2.  Visit www.launchphase2  or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students. P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit to read excerpts and to follow her blog.