Your student has been accepted to college! Congratulations! Perhaps he has been accepted to his first choice of school or to several schools. Once those highly anticipated letters have been received, the ball is once again in your student’s court. Now he must make that final decision of which school he will attend. This is potentially a very stressful time for your student.
For many students, one good opportunity to evaluate colleges one last time is Accepted or Admitted Student Day. This day is often held in the spring between the time that students have been accepted and the May 1 deposit deadline. Colleges invite students who have been accepted to visit campus one more time. Most colleges who host an Accepted Student Day work hard to make it a productive and informative day. This is the group of students the college wants to attract and they want to be sure students see the college in the best light.
If possible, your student should attend Accepted Student Day at any institution she is seriously considering. It will give her a fresh view of the school. No longer is your student worried about trying to impress the school and get admitted. She is now in. The college wants her. The pressure is off. This is her time to evaluate whether this school is the right match.
In order to make the most of Accepted or Admitted Student Days, there are a few things that your student can do.
Prior to the visit:
- Reread as much material as possible about the school (brochures, mailings, website) and jot down any questions that come up. This will be the opportunity to ask those questions.
- Find out the schedule of the day and create a plan. The schedule itself may help your student see what the college feels is important and wants to show off.
- If possible, arrange for an overnight visit on campus. This will be the opportunity to view student life more informally.
- Try to arrange for some time at the beginning or end of the day to see the surrounding area. Get a feel for the environment.
- Arrange any extra meetings that might be helpful. Do you need to schedule something with Financial Aid? Does your student want to meet with a faculty member in his department? Does your student need to meet with a Disabilities Officer or other special personnel. Try to arrange these meetings ahead of time.
- Help your student make a list of those criteria that are especially important in making a decision about a school. What matters most to him? No school is going to be 100% perfect, but there may be some factors that won’t matter and others that are vitally important to your student. Help him think about what those make-or-break factors might be. Help him think about what is realistic.
- Anticipate that the day itself may be highly structured and possibly crowded. There may be many students attending. The experience of this day may not be typical of the experience of attending the school once the crowds leave.
During the visit:
- Attend as many of the scheduled sessions as possible. Schools know that students attend these days to gather final information. They do their best to provide as much information as possible. Take advantage of the opportunity to hear how the college distinguishes itself from other schools.
- Your student will benefit from spending some time on her own just wandering around campus, spending a few minutes in the library or Campus Center, walking through classroom buildings. She should try to imagine what it will be like to be here. She should look at the current students and try to imagine whether they could be her friends. In short, can she picture herself at this school? Does it feel like the right fit? What is her “gut” telling her?
- Spend some time before or after the formal schedule wandering in the neighborhoods around the school. Your student may be living here for four or more years. If he plans to live off campus at any point, this will be his neighborhood. How does it feel? How accessible is shopping or other conveniences? Will your student have a car? Will he feel that he needs a car? Again, try to get a feel for the place.
- Try to encourage your student to ask as many as possible of the questions that he generated earlier. He should work actively at gathering all of the information that he needs to make a decision.
- Try to find an opportunity to talk to current students. Have your student ask them some frank questions about life at school, academics, activities, faculty, support. It is important to hear what the institution has to say, but it is also helpful for your student to get a student perspective. She should remember, though, to ask questions of several students. Students’ experiences can be significantly different and different students have different priorities.
- Eat in the dining center. Visit the bookstore. Check out the health center. Find those places that will be the fabric of daily college life and experience them as much as possible.
After the visit:
- Have your student jot down as much as he can remember immediately after the visit. This is especially important if your student will be visiting multiple schools.
- Have your student rate or rank the school, keeping in mind the factors that he identified as being important to him.
- Ask your student to talk about her “gut” feelings. These intangible, subjective feelings may be the most important in helping your student make a final decision. She may have applied to several schools that are very similar on paper. However, her feelings after visiting may be very different. Be prepared if your student has difficulty explaining why one place feels right and another just doesn’t. Be ready to accept this as a valid reason for making a choice.
Be patient with your student during this decision time. Try, as always, to find the balance between giving him time and space to consider and helping him actively think about what will help him make the decision. This is a big moment for most soon-to-be college students – and it must be your student’s decision. Accepted Student Day may be an ideal way for your student to gather those final, sometimes intangible, pieces of information that will help him make that final decision.