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Important things to consider as you visit colleges: The college visit

At College Bound Advantage, we work to help students consider their strengths and interests and then link them to potential majors and student organizations/involvements for exploration. We then identify a set of Ohio colleges that specialize in those majors and offer those organizations/involvements. The last step is then to coach the family on how to orchestrate and effective visit so they can begin to discern between possible majors and co-curricular activities while learning about specific colleges. We recommend, when possible, visiting colleges before making application for admission. Here are a few of our common recommendations:

  1. Prior to your visit, contact a college through their Office of Admissions and ask to schedule a visit to campus. Ask to accomplish the following things while you are there:
    1. Take a student led campus tour and either visit with an Admissions Counselor or attend an information session. Colleges routinely lead tours and provide families information on their college and their programs and offerings
    2. Ask to meet with a faculty member in a few of the major areas you or your student are considering. Most colleges can arrange this during a normal semester. You might also see if you can visit with a student in those majors.
    3. Ask to meet with a representative from any other co-curricular interest area that is important to you. For example, you might want to visit with a club sport representative or sports coach, band representative, honors program representative, residential learning community representative, study abroad representative, etc.
  2. Before going to campus, write out a list of questions you would like to have answered while visiting the college.
  3. While on your visit, ask all your questions and enjoy your time on campus. Here are a few thoughts:
    1. Your tour and admissions visit will focus generally on the college – everything from buildings, food, application process, financial aid, co-curricular activities, residential living requirements, etc. This is where you can ask your general questions about the college.
    2. Your faculty visit is critical in helping you understand major options. Consider the following questions for each faculty member: Can you tell me more about this major and what your graduates are doing now? How many full-time faculty are dedicated to this major? What are you most proud of in terms of this major? What are the requirements for getting into the major? Are there student organizations connected to the major? Are there study abroad opportunities connected to the major? Is there a residential learning community that your majors join? Do your students do internships or coops and if so, how do they get them? How many students are in the major? These questions are informed by our prior discussion on the attributes of a “Strong Major.”
    3. When you meet with representatives from the co-curricular areas, focus on: how to join or qualify; how to balance involvement in the activity with academics; and the benefits and challenges of becoming a part of the activity or organization.
  4. One final thought – most families visit a campus more than once. Once you conduct your initial visit and actually apply for admission, you will often be invited to “open house” events focusing on the major area/s of study you indicated on your application. Some campuses may even invite you to spend the night with another student on campus so you can get a feel for things first hand. Many will tell you that a student should pick the college that “feels” like home. We argue that a better approach is one that is more informed and this kind of visit will help you get there!

Now get out there and visit some campuses!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas.