Preparation key to college visit success

As the spring semester begins, whether you are a junior or a senior, now is the time to be visiting colleges to help decide where to apply or where to attend. For seniors, as acceptance letters arrive, it is really important to make the right decision about the college you will attend since you will spend the next four years there, if not more depending on how you like the community.

Three key questions are helpful in guiding your decision:

Do you feel like the people on campus are people who can be your friends?

Does the college offer enough academic paths that you will be able to find your passion there?

Does the college set you up for success during and after college?

When looking at a college for its social aspects, it is important to know where students who attend there are from. Do you want to be part of a very diverse campus where people are from all over the country or do you want to be a part of a more regional-based campus? Along with the student make-up, it is important to look at the groups and activities that are available to you. Are you interested in sororities and fraternities, writing for the school newspaper or serving in student government? Reviewing all of these options and talking to the student groups when you visit can provide a lot of information about how you will fit socially on campus.

One constant among all colleges is that you will be taking classes. Finding the right college fit is determined by how these classes are taught. Do they offer small class sizes so that you can build a relationship with your classmates, or do they have large classes where you listen to lectures and don’t participate? What courses are required in order to graduate? Is there enough time left after those courses for you to study the different content areas that you are interested in or is your schedule so tight there isn’t room for any classes you want to take just because they interest you? It is also important to know how many of your classes will be taught by faculty versus teaching assistants because that changes the dynamic of the classroom, too.

What does the college do to provide you with real world experience? Do they offer internships or undergraduate research opportunities so that you are able to apply the knowledge that you are gaining in the classroom? What do the study abroad programs look like? Can students study abroad and still graduate in four years? Does the college take an active part in mentoring the students as they begin looking for employment after college? Most colleges have great statistics showing that their students are either employed or in graduate school after they get their degree. Don’t forget to ask what percentage of students provided that information because it is likely that the students who don’t have solid plans did not respond to the survey.

Deciding on a college is an extremely difficult choice. Each college brings their “A” game to the admissions process so it’s important to know what you value when attending the campus visit. Then be relentless in getting the information that will help you find your fit.

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