Plan For College

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why Start Early? Series Blog Post #4 TOPIC: Tips for Visiting Colleges

The "Why Start College Planning Early?" Series    #4 of 6
Tips for Visiting Colleges

When visiting a college DO NOT just go on the tour and sit in the presentation and think that you have seen the whole picture. If you do, you will only see about 1/3 of the whole college and 90% of visitors will think that is enough to decide. You deserve a much deeper, wider view of a college and here at The College Planning Group, we want to show you some ways to get it.

First: Understand that the college tour and presentation are designed to get large #s of people through in an orderly fashion. For example, U Mass Boston has a population of over 16,000 students. If they want to maintain that they may need to see 4-6x that # of students on their tours...that's over 96,000 students on tours, sitting in presentations, talking to admissions etc etc...They have to make tours quick and efficient and presentations fast and packed with a lot of info. You cannot decide on a school with only these 2 events.

You can walk the campus with a chaperone. How to find one? If you know a student going there, that is best. Ask them to walk around with you and take you into classes, sports facilities, computer labs, science areas, cafeteria, and dorms. Talk to as many students as you can. Try to see as much of the campus as you can.

Compare facilities between schools. Which one has bigger and newer labs? Is the freshman dorm closer to class at one school vs another? Is the cafeteria bigger and closer at one school or another? Ask professors about their recent upgrades to equipment and supplies.

Dorm rooms tend to be all the same: small space, bunk beds, wooden desk, cinderblock walls...They must cram a lot of kids into the building. But if you can find a group of students on your "extra tour" you can ask students about bathrooms, cleaning, Wi-Fi, electricity, heat, etc etc that will help you compare each dorm.

Some other good hints:

  • Sign up for the first tour of the day. This way you can make notes of where you want to revisit later in the day. If you can be done by 10 you have 2-5 hours of extra time to see more areas.
  • The smaller the school the better chance of seeing a lot more of the school. Makes sense physically but they are often looking for more eager, creative students and if you want to walk the halls and talk to more students they often will encourage it.
  • Use existing students to help you. If you know any call them and tell them you will buy them coffee or lunch. Free food is a good strategy! If you do not know any, get to the campus early and ask some students you see if they can meet you later in the cafeteria or library or gym. If you can find a student with your major, even better.
  • Admissions folks may block you from "self-touring"...For safety and privacy concerns, you can't walk around by yourself. So,  tell admissions in advance what you want to do and they will likely help you. If you have specific requests ("I want to meet the Soccer Coach" or "I would like to see the Bio Labs" or "Can I see the library and IT Center?") tell them you need these to pick the right school. Don't try to sneak around and they will appreciate that. Email them later thanking them for their flexibility...
  • Teachers want to help! If you want to be a music major, get to the music building and knock on a teacher’s door...ask directions or a simple question about courses and they may give you 10 minutes to help you out...TIP: Get their email and thank them may be the only one out of thousands that does this and they will remember you!
  • Eat! Visit the Cafeteria and eat lunch or get coffee...bribe a student to get you in and you will be able to talk to a lot of kids who are there. Sit near a big group and introduce yourself...find out their majors and chat about campus life...if you were a student there wouldn't you be helpful to new students?
  • If you go back to a campus for a second visit, ask (in advance) if you can sit in on a class or meet with 2-3 teachers in their office to discuss classes and projects etc. If you are into sports or music, then ask to visit a practice or a game or sit in on a music class or rehearsal. Get as much time as you can with the will be spending a lot of money and years of your life there so investigate early and often!

Remember, plan ahead to get a chaperone and get as many emails as you can to thank them later. Most students will not personally thank people they meet for their time and help so you will stand out...You never know who has influence on selecting the next incoming class!

Hope this helps!

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569