Campus visits can do a lot to help your student decide whether a school is right for them. As part of the admission process, most students try to visit the schools on their wish list to get a sense of the campus and students. It’s a good way to determine the best fit, but it can be time consuming and, depending on your student’s list, expensive.
Why, then, would anyone suggest that your student visit schools not on their wish list? Why bother visiting if you’re not interested?
One of the main reasons to visit any college campus is to gather information. If the school is on your student’s short list, they are hoping to learn whether that school feels right – academically, socially, financially. By visiting a school not on your student’s list, they can gather information that will help them learn about themselves and about the world of college in general. This information may help them put together, or hone, their actual list of schools.
Here are some of the things your student can learn from visiting colleges.
- Your student can get a feel for college life. Students who have never been on a college campus have no real understanding (other than media or college catalogs) of the atmosphere and environment of a college campus. After our first campus visit with my oldest daughter, she said, “I’ve been thinking about college as just another step after high school, but now I get that college is going to be FUN!” Visiting the buildings, seeing a residence hall, hearing about the activities and opportunities on campus helped her realize that college was not only going to be educational, it was going to be a lifestyle. She became more excited about attending college and more vested in the admission process.
- Your student can get a feel for different types of schools. If possible, try to visit a large public university and a small private college. Visit a dense urban campus and a sprawling rural school. Visit a one-sex college. Another of my daughters had never considered a women’s college until she visited one (simply because it was a reasonable drive from home) and fell in love with the atmosphere. There was no going back for her.
- Your student will understand more about how a college visit is structured. Most visits begin with an information session followed by a campus tour. By the time that your student begins visiting the schools on their list, they’ll feel comfortable with the process, the lingo, the types of questions people ask, and what they should expect to see. They’ll feel less overwhelmed.
- Your student will learn about possible majors, minors, and careers. This can be especially important for a student who is undecided about what they want to do. Visiting several schools will allow them to hear about opportunities and gather information. They may learn about majors or careers they’ve never heard about before. Later, they can investigate whether the colleges on their list have the majors that interest them.
- Your student will become more comfortable with the admission process. Information sessions often include information about how to apply, what types of financial aid is available, and what to include on a resume or application. It may be easier for your student to absorb this process information when they are not also trying to evaluate the school. No pressure now means they’ll feel less intimidated by the process later, when it matters.
- Your student will learn more about what is important to them. Before your student is in a position to evaluate the fit of a school, they need to understand themselves and what they need and want in a school. At a school they’re not interested in, they can notice what they like or don’t like, what appeals to them, what details draw their attention. They’ll be better able to make informed decisions later about schools that matter.
- Your student will begin to formulate questions that they want to ask on future admission visits. As they listen to information sessions, hear the questions that others ask, and begin to notice what matters to them, they can put together some of the questions they’ll want answered at schools they are considering. They’ll be able get the information they need to make a final decision.
- Your student may discover a new school they haven’t considered. It’s always possible to discover that the school you’re visiting seems right and should be on your student’s list.
Practicing for admission
One of the best pieces of advice often given to job seekers is to do some practice interviews before they do the real thing. These can be mock interviews with a friend or interviews for jobs the applicant doesn’t really want. It’s tough to walk into an important interview for a job you want if you’ve never had an interview before.
Experiencing admission visits at a school you’re not interested in can give your student the opportunity to practice the experience. They’ll learn more about what to expect, what to ask, what might be asked of them, how to dress, how to behave, what to look for. When your student visits those finalists on their list, when their job is to impress admission personnel, they will be more comfortable and confident,
College visits can be fun
A final reason to visit colleges? It can be fun.
Getting onto campus, eating in a dining hall or snack bar, sitting on the quad, attending an event can all be fun for your student – and for you. You’ll have an opportunity to spend time together (especially if you have a lengthy car ride), to do something together, and to have some conversations about what your student is thinking.
Keep it light. Keep it simple. Enjoy some no-pressure time together as part of what can sometimes be a stressful admission process.