Spring has become a customary time for students to visit colleges. The purpose for such visits can be varied. Middle school students often visit along with their teachers in the hope that visits will motivate students to aspire toward a college education. These visits are especially helpful to parents who have themselves not had a college education. Parents may wish to recommend such visits to their children’s schools.
Although the purposes of the trips may be different, the steps toward organizing a trip can be quite similar. Visits are more effective if you and your children do some advance planning.
BEFORE YOU GO
Consider the geographic area you may be able to include in your trip to determine if more than one visit is possible. Families often extend business trips or family vacations to include college tours. Library or Internet research is a first step to help determine which colleges would likely accept your student. Average SAT and ACT scores, acceptance criteria, and tuition costs are available in college selection books or on the web. Families can contact colleges to determine if specific visitation programs are available.
Use a brainstorming approach to create both parent and student questions. After you’ve brainstormed, select and prioritize the “must ask” questions. For example, if your teenager knows what he or she is going to major in, you’ll want to know if the college has a good department for that particular career interest.
DURING YOUR VISIT
Students should try to sit in on at least one class in an area of interest. They should find other students to talk to about such topics as (1) class size, (2) course selection, (3) availability of advisor and professor time, and (4) special interests including dorms, social life, etc.
Try to talk briefly to several professors in a potential major. You can ask about the percentage of graduates that are able to find jobs upon graduation. Find out about counseling and tutoring services. If you’re interested, check on availability of a campus religious group. Be sure to take notes or record what you hear. Information often becomes muddled and confused by the time you’ve visited two or three colleges.
WHEN YOU RETURN
Organize the information you’ve received by writing down the answers to each question you’ve asked for each college. You may find some missing information that you may wish to check back with the college about. Permit your teenager to talk about impressions so you can help sort out the ones that will really make a difference. See the example of a decision matrix on the next page to help you decide where to apply.
You could add many questions to your matrix, and even add such additional considerations as tuition, distance from home, cost of living in dormitories, dormitory policy on quiet hours, and cafeteria options. Recognize that your teenager may have hidden motivations like “my friend may be going there” or “my guidance counselor went to school there and loved it.” Encourage discussion about these subtle considerations so that they don’t dominate objective decision making.
Of course, there are many good options for colleges, but visiting a campus often helps families make more comfortable decisions.
ORGANIZING YOUR INFORMAITON
HELPING STUDENTS CHOOSE A COLLEGE
Now that your son or daughter has been accepted to colleges, you and they will need to make the choice of which college to attend. Hopefully, your teen will have several to choose from. Here’s a step-by-step program for making this exciting choice, which will affect the direction of your teen’s adult life.
*Cost factor should include actual costs, scholarships available, etc. High numbers indicate most reasonable costs; low numbers, most expensive.
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Student Stepping Stones: Guidelines to Success for New College Students
©2008 by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.