Summer often means it's time to load up the family car and embark on the "Great American College Road Trip!" Here are a few tips to help you get the most of your college visits.
1. Book the campus tour and information session in advance. You can do this online by going to the college admissions website. Tours can book up, and you want to be sure to learn as much as you can about the school while visiting.
2. Ask questions. You'll be following a tour guide who is often walking backwards, but if you walk closely with the student guide, you'll have the chance to ask more questions, or else hear the answers to the questions other people are asking.
3. What kinds of questions should you ask the student tour guide? Ask about weekends, what the social life and campus culture is like, what kinds of activities he/she are involved in, how big their average classes are, how well they know their professors, whether or not they know anyone who has studied abroad or done an internship, if they know about the career development office, if they ever go to a writing or math tutoring center for extra help, etc.
4. Look around and take pictures. Look for signs of student activities and at bulletin boards in the student union as well as academic buildings. Pictures help you go back and remember what you saw.
5. Pick up a copy of the student paper. Read what people are talking about and what's going on.
6. Eat in a dining hall. What kind of food choices do you see? Are there kids eating alone, or in groups? You'll be able to pick up on cues just by looking around and observing.
7. Look at the area surrounding the campus. What kind of area will you have to go through to get to/from campus? Would you feel safe? What does the community have to offer?
8. Questions to ask in the info session include what percentage of students on financial aid are receiving grants, merit scholarships, or work/study? Loans are often discussed as part of financial aid, but remember, loans must be repaid.
9. Residential life. How many years is student housing guaranteed, and what percentage of students lives on campus all four years? Is the campus residential, commuter, or a "suitcase school," meaning it empties out on weekends?
10. This one is blank, because it's really up to you to think of something you really want to know more about After all, college visits are all about finding the right fit for you!
Rebecca (Becky) Grappo, M.Ed, is a certified educational planner and the founder of RNG International Educational Consultants. She works with students in Colorado as well as throughout the world to help find the right boarding school or college for them, and assists with the application process from start to finish. You can visit her website at www.rebeccagrappo.com or come to her office in Dillon.