College Visits

What three things should rising seniors be doing over the summer?

As we head off into the summer, we asked our experts what rising seniors should be doing this summer. As usual, they've got some great advice about how to rest, recharge, and prepare for a couple of steps in the college application process so you'll hit the ground running -- and avoid feeling overwhelmed -- in the fall. And don't forget, two of the most important and best things you can do this summer are rest and read, read, read... Nothing will prepare you better for senior year. Enjoy all of it!

 

Mai Lien Nguyen
College and Career Center Coordinator
Mountain View High School
Mountain View, CA

 

“Having fun” and “preparing for college applications” aren’t phrases you normally hear in the same breath.  But the summer before senior year could be the golden opportunity to make this happen.  Let’s see how:

 

April is the Craziest Month for Seniors and their Families

Jane Kulow, aka Dr. StrangeCollege, is back with advice for seniors and their families as application season nears the finish line of decisions. 

 

April is the craziest month.

T.S. Eliot may have called April the cruelest month, but for high school seniors that label might go to March. After the long autumn months of writing college applications and the cold winter months of awaiting a response (and hoping for the best), March delivers the stark reality of college admission decisions:  yes, no, or would you like to wait for a possible yes later (at very low odds)?

Which brings us to the craziness of April and the decisions seniors and their families face. Even when the student is accepted into his or her favorite school, most families will want to look closely at each of the colleges offering admission.

Closely, and quickly: the May 1 deadline for the student’s decision fast approaches.

Here’s what many senior households may wish to do this month:

Visit the campus

If you haven’t yet visited the campus, now’s the time to take a look, before anyone writes a deposit check. Virtual visits may be great, but they cannot convey the smell of the freshman dorm, the path from one end of campus to another, or the typical style of students at the school.

Or visit again

Juniors: Don't forget to find out what goes on in the classrooms on a college visit

One of the mistakes we see students make in the college admission process is failing to find out enough about the academic life of a school -- what actually goes on in the classrooms.  In a Chronicle of Higher Education piece, What We Don't Talk About on the Admissions Tour, James M. Lang, associate professor of English, director of the college honors program at Assumption College and parent to a member of the class of 2017, states the case for finding out as much about the teaching and learning as the food service on a college campus.

 

Like any parent of a prospective student at a residential college, we are preparing for our child to live on her own for the first time. What shape will that new life take? I want to be able to envision my daughter in her new room, and gain a sense of what her peers will be like, and know that she will have access to food and facilities that will allow her to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Juniors: Strike up a conversation with students while visiting campus

You got the admission office perspective at the info session and on the tour, but don’t forget to get the unofficial perspective during your downtime on campus. The best way to do that is to talk to current students who aren’t on the admission office “payroll.” Conquer any shyness and strike up a conversation with the girl studying on the quad or the guy in line at the bookstore. Most students are more than happy to talk with your about their experience! Your opening line can be as simple as “I’m visiting because I might apply to come here. Mind if I ask you something?” And then ask away:

• Why did you decide to go to school here?

• What was your biggest surprise about the school?

• How much time do you spend studying? Where do you study?

• How hard is it to get the classes you need?

• Do students get along well with each other?

• Why do students like the school?

• What are the drawbacks to going to school here?

• Who fits in here and who doesn’t?

• If you could change anything about this school, what would it be?

• How much time do students spend studying?

• How do you meet people on campus?

• What is the social life like on campus?

• What do you like most about the school?

• What was freshman year like? How difficult was the transition?

Juniors: Questions to Ask when Visiting Campus

In the official group information sessions colleges offer, an admission officer will usually provide an overview of the college -- the school’s history, academic programs, undergraduate life, athletics, the application process, and financial aid-- followed by a question and answer session for students and parents. (Quick tip: let students lead with their questions first!)

During this Q&A, the admission officer will be able to provide you with answers about most aspects of daily life on campus— academics, housing, any special programs such as study- abroad opportunities. But don’t be afraid to have them address broader queries about the who, what, and why of the campus -- and the application process. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

• What impresses you the most in a student’s application?

• What are you looking for when you read students’ essays?

• What are some of the things you hate to see in an application?

• Is demonstrated interest a factor in your admission decision?

• Are admission decisions need- blind?

• What kind of student does well here? What kind of student doesn’t do well here?

• Did you attend this college? What has changed since you’ve been here?

• What changes do you see taking place on campus in the next five years?

Juniors: Interviews, overnights, shadows... What kind of opportunities do your colleges offer for visits?

Interviews, overnights, and shadow programs… Colleges offer prospective students many ways of learning about their campuses. Part of preparing properly for a successful college road trip is understanding what opportunities are available at each of the colleges in which you're interested. Here's what to look for:

Juniors: Time to Plan your College Road Trips

Juniors, now is the time when you and your family should sit down and plan when and where college trips are going to occur. Time, distance, and cost are all considerations for families making college visits. But planning ahead is another element of approaching the application process wisely by being organized enough so that you and your parents are not constantly nagged by doubts and concerns.

With some dates in mind for visits, then check the website of each of the colleges you plan to visit to obtain dates and times for tours, information sessions, interview availability, and other opportunities. Make a reservation if required. Do this as far in advance as possible so you can get a spot on a date that works for your family. Some schools may not require you to reserve a space for info sessions or tours but ask you to let them know in advance that you’re attending. Do this.

If the college requires or strongly suggests an applicant interview, arrange an appointment for when you are on campus. There are usually a limited number of time slots for interviews, available on a first- come, first- served basis.

A Fellow Traveler's Advice on Parenting Through the College Admission Process

Lists are objects of affection here at College Admission.  There's nothing like a checklist to help students and families break down the big challenge of college applications into its manageable parts. According to author Maria Konnikova writing in the New Yorker, "…lists tap into our preferred way of receiving and organizing information at a subconscious level; from an information-processing standpoint, they often hit our attentional sweet spot."

So we were so happy to see this list of sixteen pieces of excellent advice from Mary Dell Harrington of Grown and Flown -- College Admissions: Don’t Go It Alone-- which hits the sweet spot of parenting through the college application process.

How to Mind your Manners while Applying to College

Lisa Endlich Heffernan of the excellent blog Grown and Flown has some great advice for students -- and parents -- about best behavior and student etiquette so the college application process carries you where you want to go. 

The college process is a long campaign -- it can be exhausting, distracting and anxiety-producing. So good manners should have a place of prominence.  But it is all too easy for an overwrought, otherwise distracted teen to forget what they have been taught.   As a parent I was often distracted by the details of the process, too, and failed in my job of reminding my sons to mind their manners along the way.  So here are a few reminders, I wish I had had.

 

Best Advice for College Visits

The rite of passage that is the college visit is one of the most important influences in determining where students will eventually apply. Walking across a campus, grabbing a cup of coffee in the student union, buying a sweatshirt at the bookstore… For students, these experiences offer the chance to try on a college and see if it fits and, for parents, these trips can be an important step in the letting- go process. At this point in the year, many juniors may be planning spring visits to campuses and seniors may soon be thinking about return visits as they make decisions. So this month, we asked our high school counselors: "What is your best advice for college visits?" Here's to road trips!
 

Carolyn W. Clark
Director of College Advising
The Brearley School
New York, New York

College visits start with dreams of ivy-covered walls but often end in total confusion about what you saw and what you thought.   Yet there is no better way to learn about a school than to visit—if you do it right. 

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