Are you a homeschooling family getting ready to make some college visits? Read on to make the most of your time on campus.
The contemporary college admissions process is a far cry from what I experienced 20 years ago. I remember rifling through 50 pound college guides to figure out which schools looked good. The internet was still in preschool, and I think I might have made one college visit? Maybe?
It will be a few years before our own children face this process. When we do get to that point, though, I’m grateful my husband, Daniel Kochis, knows the ins and outs of the college admissions process. Dan’s the Director of Counseling at a local Catholic high school. For thirteen years he’s helped thousands of traditional and homeschool students find the right post-secondary fit. I’m happy to share my online home with him today as he shares his insight for making the most of your college visit.
In some ways, finding the right college is easier than ever. The internet has lifted the veil, so to speak, and put much of the information right at our finger tips. But no matter the great strides in college information access, there is no substitute for an in person visit. What goes into preparing for that visit can have a huge impact on the value of the experience.
First, do your research
Your goal? Gathering basic information and stats that will help you create a list of pertinent, well-researched questions.
- Is this school the right fit for me?
- How many students complete a particular degree program?
- What sort of options do you have for work study?
You might not even articulate these thoughts, but they should be on your mind anyway. Well-researched questions are of more worth than the legendary admissions office horror of, “Do you have dorms?”
Contact and schedule with admissions
Some counselors will espouse the value of a surprise or unplanned visit. I disagree. Their job in the Admissions Office is to connect you with what you need to know to make an informed decision. Furthermore, they can aid you in making an “off the menu” request, like speaking to faculty within a certain program.
Form a game plan
Be sure to include an old school printout of directions and a campus map, and remember to make plans for down time afterward. Where will you get gas or grab something to eat? If you have little ones in tow, what will you do for naps?
Subsequently, what will you do after your visit? Getting frozen yogurt off campus may seem like a waste of time, but it can be a good opportunity for processing information: your attention won’t be divided between the road and your soon-to-be adult child.
Turn to a higher power
I’m amazed by families who start their travel in family prayer. I recommend it to all the families I work with, whether it is something naturally ingrained or totally foreign. Few families are lucky to be in complete agreement with regards to higher ed choices. In this situation, there can be no better guide than the Holy Spirit.
Once you’ve planned and prepared for your visit, how do you make the most of the time you have on campus?
Get the right answers
Apply benevolent skepticism to what is presented. In other words, “trust, but verify.” Talk to current or former students; find out if they agree with the statements made during the tour. And don’t be surprised if you come away from a visit asking new questions. This usually means the search process is working.
Take your time
I recommend no more than two visits in a day, even for institutions in close proximity. Information overload is a real thing, and it isn’t pretty.
Go by the Financial Aid Office
Entry and affordability are like two pedals of the same bicycle; what good is getting into a school if the means to attend aren’t there? The office can provide you with information on need and merit-based awards, grants, and deadlines.
Visit Campus Ministry
Where is mass celebrated? When? What about confession? Where is the office located, and what activities do they offer?
Stay cool, fool
Don’t let your inner excitement or disappointment color the day. You may never join the world poker tour, but on a college visit, you’ll have several opportunities to practice your poker face.
Respect the intuitive nature of the teenage brain
Your teen may not be able to articulate every fine point of pro vs. con, but he will be able to assemble an overall impression of a school. It may be an exceptional challenge to accept if your dumpling refuses to get out of the car after a six hour drive, but it’s important to respect his gut feeling as well as your own.
Above all, be open
Times have changed since we were in school. Education is a dynamic field, and what was may not be so anymore. Be open to new ideas, new schools, and new pathways to higher ed. Be informed and proactive, but don’t let a narrow perspective get in the way of a positive experience. There’s a right fit out there for everyone, and taking the time to physically explore your options is paramount. Prepare, plan, and participate, but above all – enjoy the ride.
Are you in need of advice or guidance in your own college search? You can contact Dan here – he’d be happy to chat with you.