What will it be like when I go to college? Will I like the college I choose? What will the other kids there be like? What will I do for fun? Planning for college can be extremely exciting but a little intimidating, too.
One of the best ways to answer these questions and ease your mind is by visiting a college. Believe it or not, many students never even visit the colleges they choose to go to before they enroll. Can you imagine buying a car without ever seeing it?
Making an informed decision about a college or university may help predict whether or not you'll be happy at the college you choose. College visitations are one of the best ways for a potential student to decide which colleges he or she may want to apply to or who to accept an offer from.
Chances are, you are looking at quite a few possibilities. In order to best prepare for these visits and avoid having them all blend together, take these 10 tips into consideration:
1. Plan ahead - Call or schedule a visit online with the admissions office. Most colleges offer group presentations, tours and-or independent meetings with an admissions counselor.
2. Go informed - Investigate the college ahead of time. Obviously, if you are planning a visit, there is something appealing about the school. However, make sure you familiarize yourself with some basics before you head there.
3. Visit your program department - Depending on your interests, you also may want to arrange a visit with the department head of your program or programs of interest. This is a great way to see labs, studios and hear about events. College athletes or students interested in other extracurricular activities should try to arrange meetings with coaches or coordinators.
4. Take notes and take pictures - Snap pictures of anything interesting on campus to help you remember what you liked or didn't like.
5. Take questions or a checklist - Take a list of questions to ask or things to look for on campus. Carry it with you as you walk around. Ask your guidance counselor or college consultant to help you with this if you're not sure what to ask.
6. Talk to and observe current students - Meet students and hear what they have to say. Often times an admissions counselor or department coordinator can give you the name of a current student to chat with.
7. Go when classes are in session - Visit the dining halls, dorms, computer labs, library, recreation centers, etc. to see where students gather and hang out.
8. Find out about student services - What is the school's advising program like? Are there professional advisers, faculty advisors or both? Is career advising incorporated into academic advising? Are there tutoring programs available and if so, who are the tutors and what subjects can be tutored?
9. Meet with the disabilities office on campus - If you have a learning disability or other special needs, it is essential for you to investigate the specific services provided on each campus you visit. Disability or special needs services at colleges are not regulated the same way as in high school and can vary from basic services to comprehensive programs.
10. Dress appropriately - Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk, a lot. Most tours can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Take into consideration the weather, as most tours are rain, snow or shine.
Bonner is a college consultant at Bonner Educational Consultants. She has worked in college admissions in Colorado and Pennsylvania. Her practice is located in the Williamsport area and can be found online at www.bonneredu.com.
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