With spring break and summer approaching it’s time for many high school students to begin visiting colleges and universities to decipher what school or type of school is best for them.
There are many different approaches you can take to learning more about a college or university. You could:
- Visit the website
- Take a virtual tour (online video)
- Reach out to your admission counselor via email
- Look at U.S. News and World Report Rankings (Interesting information but I wouldn’t put a lot of weight into it)
- Reach out to current students or alumni. Some schools have programs that connect prospective students with alumni.
The most common way to learn more about a school is to actually step foot on campus. Depending on what time of year you visit you can often times really get a feel of what it would be like to attend the school.
Here a few things to do before you embark on a college road trip:
- Try to determine what you would like to major in. This may be easy for some but also difficult for many. If you are unsure about what you want to do for the rest of your life, it’s okay! You’re not alone. Look for schools that offer a variety of majors so that you have the opportunity to try various things in which you might be interested.
- Think critically about what type of school you would like to attend. Small? Medium? Large? Religious? Non-sectarian? Public? Private? Co-ed? Single Sex? North? South? East? West? With over 4,000 options in the United States alone, choosing a school can be extremely overwhelming. When beginning school visits be sure to visit both small, medium, and large schools.
- Look for overnight / fly in programs. Many colleges offer programs to prospective students that will allow you to visit the campus with a large group of students. You will have the opportunity to tour the campus, talk to current students, visit classes, as well as see what it would be like to live in a college dormitory. Some schools offer these programs at no cost however, many schools charge students for a program like this. There are sometimes fee waivers or vouchers you may apply for so be sure to ask! Also, some schools only offer their fly in programs to applicants, meaning you have to have already submitted an application (which may also mean this visit will take place during your senior year). When forming a list of schools to visit be sure to prioritize the schools that do not offer a program like this so that you have the opportunity to visit almost every school on your list (it is okay if you don’t visit all the schools!).
- Before stepping foot on each campus make sure you do your research! Create a flow chart, spreadsheet, or one pager on each school you plan to visit (and/or apply to). This will help you when formulating your questions as well as assist you in comparing each school. It is extremely important to ask the right questions such as:
- Does the college/university accept dual credit / transfer credits? Are there limitations? What AP exam scores are accepted?
- What types of need-based (financial need) and merit (academic success) scholarships does the college/university offer?
- What are the living arrangements for first year students? Is there a residency requirement for first years and sophomores? (Some schools require you to live on campus the first year or two.)
- What does the application process entail? Some schools require an interview. Some schools accept ACT but not SAT or vice versa. Be sure you know which of your schools accept what so that you are preparing for the correct exams.
- Have fun! The college search and application process is very stressful but it is also an exciting time in your life. You only do it once. Take your time, think critically and enjoy the journey.
Your Sista Friend,