Spring + HS Junior = College Visit Season

IMG_0993Spring is a great time for juniors in high school to visit colleges they have been researching, in preparation for a productive summer of finalizing their college lists and working on their essays and applications.  What?  You haven’t been researching colleges? Don’t stress! But now is the time to start so that you know where to apply this summer and fall.  Read here for tips on putting together your college list: http://bit.ly/collegelisttips.

Even if you do not have a rough list of colleges you are considering, there are opportunities within driving distance for you to explore this spring. I recommend visiting a large, state university in your home state, along with a few, smaller private colleges.  Visit an urban school, along with ones in suburban or rural settings.  Take notes on what you like from each visit and use that information to find similar schools in different geographical locations.

For Oregon residents, both flagship universities are offering Junior Visit Days this spring that include the typical campus visits and admissions sessions, plus special interest sessions. For more information and to register, check out the links below:

Oregon State University (February 19, March 26, March 30, April 6 or April 13)

University of Oregon Duck Days (March 9, March 16, March 23, April 6, April 9, April 20 or April 27)IMG_1025

Even if you don’t have travel plans this spring, you can virtually visit any college.  One of my favorite virtual tour sites is YouVisit.com, which closely mimics a real, on-campus tour.  Try this one for Colgate University in Hamilton, NY.

Many families use Spring Break to visit colleges. Make sure you book your plans soon, as Spring Break tour dates often fill up quickly. You should also check here for college spring break dates, as some campuses suspend their tours during the college’s Spring Break. Before you head out on your tour, you need to prepare to make the most of your visit.  Continue reading for my favorite College Visit Tips.

  • Go to the admission session and take the official tour. Some schools care about students showing Demonstrated Interest. When you attend an official tour and admission session, it is noted in your file and might be considered as part of your admissions decision. These sessions vary in the amount of information they provide but try not to judge a school based solely on its presenter or tour guide.
  • Plan your trip early. The most informative part of a tour is often meeting with a department head or professor in the subject area you are interested in studying, or even sitting in on a class. You need to request this opportunity at least two weeks in advance.
  • Build in time to explore. Allow time to eat in one of the dining halls and explore the surrounding area. Take the time to find the essentials you need to feel at home (the closest Starbucks, coolest music venue or best cheeseburger).
  • Research each college before you visit so you’ll have specific questions to ask. Do you want to know about research opportunities within your major?  Do you know if the major you are considering has higher admission standards than other majors?  Are you interested in themed housing? Do you have questions about financial aid or scholarships?  Know what you want to know more about.
  • Pay attention to the students on campus. Are they happy and friendly?  Do you hear students talking about academics outside of class? Do students all look the same, or do you see a diverse student body? If you are comfortable, approach a group of students and introduce yourself as a prospective student; ask them why they chose their school, what they love and what they wish they could change.

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  • Pick up a copy of the campus newspaper. The tour guides share what is new and wonderful, but to really understand what is happening on campus and what current students are concerned about, the campus newspaper gives you the inside scoop.
  • Take good notes and pictures to help you remember details of your visit. Write down what you learned, liked and what didn’t quite fit before you get to another campus. If this is a school you eventually apply to, you might have to write an essay about your visit and answer “Why this College?” essay questions.
  • Don’t rush back to the hotel. Ask campus staff for the best places to eat and visit off campus. This could be your new home. Have fun!