College visits can be fun and exciting. Thank goodness, too, because they are a crucial ingredient to successfully launching your child. After all, one of the places you visit is (hopefully!) going to be where your child will live for four years of their life! That’s why visiting is such a crucial step in the process of choosing. Four years is a long time! You shouldn’t commit to something this important without a lot of research and investigation. Here are some keys to a successful visit, to help you make the most of your time.
No matter whether you will be visiting on a day when hundreds of other potential students are visiting, or just touring on your own, make sure the admissions department knows you’re coming. They pay attention when students show interest in them, and you want them to know you’re interested. Most college websites give you the opportunity to register for a visit, so don’t miss the opportunity to let them know you’re coming.
Meet Admissions Representatives
Since it’s important to find a college who will love you just as much as you love them, make sure your student dresses neatly and is at their most charming during the visit. When you meet with representatives, resist the urge to jump in and run the show; back off and let your student do most of the interacting. That way, the college will get to know your child better, and get a better picture of who they are, beyond their application. Of course, it’s entirely appropriate for parents to ask questions about homeschool records, etc., but let your child do most of the talking at this point.
Take a Class and Tour
Don’t miss the chance to attend a class or two that interests your child. This will help them get a better idea of what day-to-day classes will be like. Also try to meet with a department head if your child has some idea of what they’d like to major in. Tours are usually offered too, so go check out the campus. Don’t forget to take notes, so that when your student writes their application essays, they can include details about their visit.
Holy Spirit Lead
Pay close attention when you visit, using all your senses. What is the Holy Spirit saying? It is a whisper, or a shout? What is your initial gut instinct? Is this a positive environment? Can you see your child living here for four years?
Use Your Sense of Sight!
Pay attention to what you see on campus. Are the students happy? Is this a pleasant place to be? What do the grounds look like? If the place is worn and littered, it might indicate that students don’t take much pride in their school. Also ask specific questions about what happens on campus, such as special events, resources, etc. Just like at many institutions, this kind of information is often posted on the walls of the bathrooms, so make sure to check that out! Do the activities seem fun? Are they consistent with your values? I remember one college my husband and I visited that had so many fun activities, we wished we could attend!
Use Your Sense of Hearing!
In addition to looking, make sure to listen too. What are the student and faculty conversations like? Are people respectful? Is their conversation laced with profanity? Listening to professors can tell you a lot about a school, too: do they know their students by name? Talk to them as adults? Do they seem like good role models for your child?
Use Your Sense of Taste!
Most colleges will provide prospective families with a free voucher to use in the campus dining hall. Eating the food during a visit is a MUST! Your child will be eating here for at least several years, three times a day, seven days a week! And if your child has any kind of food allergies, the college must be able accommodate them.
Use Your Senses of Touch and Smell!
Lastly, pay attention to whether the school is clean. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but is it consistent with your family standards? More importantly, how does the environment make you feel about safety and security? Is this a place your child will enjoy and feel comfortable living in?
Spend the Night
Once you have narrowed your search to just a few colleges, have your child spend a night on campus, and experience life in the dorms. This is their opportunity to get to know the student population a little better, and if they live on campus, a huge proportion of their time will be spent in the dorms. Most schools offer this opportunity, and it’s another chance to demonstrate to them how serious you are about their school!
After a college visit, it’s important to send thank you notes to the admissions staff and any professors you spent time with. Both parents and students can do this, and both email and snail mail are appropriate. If you are really interested in a college, I recommend sending both.
Visiting a college is the final, critical step in choosing where your child will attend. You can’t really tell the personality of a college from their brochures, and just because they have the word “Christian” in their name doesn’t mean they share your family’s values. Names mean nothing. A quick Google search for “Texas Christian University Top 10 Party Schools” explains why the college visit is crucial. Make sure to visit before you make the huge commitment of sending your student to college for four years!
Lee Binz is The HomeScholar. Her mission is “helping parents homeschool high school.” Her free mini-course, “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Homeschooling High School,” is a great introduction to high school essentials. Her free newsletter provides monthly encouragement and support. Her homeschool transcript solution teaches parents how to create high school transcripts for every homeschool style. You can get a daily dose of high school help at her blog, The HomeScholar Helper, recently voted as the “best homeschool business blog.” You can find Lee online at www.TheHomeScholar.com and on Facebook.com/TheHomeScholar