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Planning College Visits

Stephen Friedfeld, PhD

Planning College Visits

College visits are a critical component to the college search process for every prospective student. The visit can provide a window into the student life and academic experience at an institution. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when visiting college campuses:

Sign up early and take the full tour

Students should register for the guided tour whenever possible. The tour generally starts with a 40 minute presentation by an admission officer and is followed by a student-led campus tour. While it may seem appealing to wander around campus on your own, the tour will provide the student with access to facilities, residence halls and labs. Registering for the tour will help to demonstrate your interest in the institution and will provide follow up communication when you leave campus.

Try to meet your college representative

Most schools have an admission officer designated for specific areas of the country. Try to identify who that person is prior to the tour, and send him or her an email asking to meet briefly while you are on campus. This is a chance for your child to introduce her/himself in order to build an initial rapport. If the admission officer is unavailable, it is still good to get in touch saying sorry to miss them, and hope to meet in person at some point during the application process. Remember, your territory representative is generally the first person who will read your application, and can serve as your biggest advocate through the review process.

Eat on campus

Your child will live there for four years, the food is important! Try the different options and make sure you are comfortable with the dining experience. Eating on campus is also a great way to ‘people watch.’ See if you can pick up trends about the school. Do students have a similar style? Is the student body diverse? Do a lot of people wear institutional “swag?” The dining experience can tell you a lot about campus and the student experience.

Talk to current students

There is no better perspective than that of a current student. While the student tour guide is a great starting point, they do work (or volunteer) for the admission office. If you get a chance, talk to different people on campus.  Ask them about the academic climate; do they feel challenged? Are they supported by the faculty? Are other students competitive or supportive academically? What types of relationships have they formed with their professors? By asking a variety of questions to multiple students, you will start to get a clearer picture of what it’s like to be a student at that specific school.

Check the resources for your major

If you have a specific major or program that you are interested in, be sure to see the facilities. While college campuses are generally very pretty, the facilities can differ from school to school. Make sure that the resources that will be available to you meet your standards, and give you an opportunity to thrive.  If possible, meet with a professor or sit in on a class in the subject area that you are most interested in.

Give your teens space

Parents: try to let your child control the visit. Don’t overwhelm or embarrass them with questions during the info session or tour. Let their voice be heard. Feel free to drop back a bit during the tour and let your daughter or son open a dialogue with other prospective students or the tour guide. Remember that they are the ones going to college, and while they may not seem as excited or ask the same questions as you, they have to feel confident and comfortable in their new community.

(Stephen Friedfeld is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member. )

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