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  • Writer's pictureKate-Jen Barker-Schlegel

Visiting Colleges: 5 Things to Look For

Visiting Colleges can be loads of fun but it can also be overwhelming. To make the most of your visit, arrive with an open mind and a positive attitude. Many kids start out looking for one specific kind of school only to discover that they are really attracted to something completely different. To make the most of your campus visits, keep your eyes peeled for these five factors.

1. Academics

2. Peeps

3. Fun Stuff

4. Financial Assistance

5. Special Features

1. Academics.

I know, I know....sounds boring! But, let's face it, you are going to college with the ultimate goal of becoming an educated person and getting a cool job, Right? Whether you are searching for a program that will prepare you for a certain position, like Elementary Education or a program that will allow you to study something that you love, like poetry, ask questions about academic programs, core requirements and professors. Most likely, every college that you visit will kick off the experience with a short presentation and video and makes their school look like the coolest place ever. Afterwards, an admissions officer will take questions from the crowd. Don't be afraid to raise your hand and ask away. If your questions are super specific, stopy by the admissions office after your tour and see if an admissions officer can talk with you for a few minutes.

2. Peeps.

Just as no man is an island, no man can have fun in college without a few friends. For this reason, finding your people is just as crucial to your college experience as finding your major. In fact, many would say it is more important. During your visit, check out the students on campus. Do they look like people you can relate to? Do they look happy? Engaged? Stressed? Friendly? Don't be afraid to approach students on campus and ask questions. Find out how many nights a week people go out and what most students do for fun. A very telling question to ask is what they don't like or would change about the school. It may seem weird at first but remember, you are considering committing four years of your life and in some cases, close to $300,000.00 to each school that you visit. When stakes are that high, it's worth a little investigation.

3. Fun Stuff

Some schools commit huge amounts of money to student activities while others do just the opposite. Find out what kinds of activities the school funds for students each semester. Do they do movie nights, concerts, an earth day festival, midnight hot chocolate and snack events during finals? Visit the student activities office. Does it look lively and exciting or is it in a dark and uninviting corner on the edge of campus. If particular clubs interest you, ask about them. Just because a club is listed on a school's website doesn't mean that it has active members. You will spend plenty of time studying but hopefully, you will spend just as much time goofing off with friends.....because that is, by far, one of the best parts of college.

4. Financial Assistance

If finances are a concern for you, as they are for most, stop by the financial aid office before you conclude your visit. Depending on when you visit, they will most likely tell you to get your FAFSA form done in early October. Ask about need based and academic scholarships that may require separate applications. Find out if the school takes the CSS profile. And most importantly, if you plan to apply Early Decision ask what will happen if you are accepted but not awarded enough money to enroll.

5. Special Features

I want......a study abroad program in Seoul, Korea, a turf field where I can run at night, a cafeteria with gluten free food, a school that will allow me to bring my therapy dog. Kids have all kinds of preferences when it comes to choosing a school....and we think that is just fine. Not to bring up money again, but if I spend over $100k on something, I should get exactly what I want. So....if I want a school that doesn't have a Greek system, I should have that. Campus visits are a great opportunity to find out if a school has some of the unique features that you are looking for. If you don't want to ask about these during the question and answer period of the presentation, you can ask your tour guide or an admissions counselor after the tour ends.

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