College visits can be a wonderful experience for families, as parents and high schoolers tour campuses of interest. These visits are the ideal time to consider which college would be the right fit for the student of the family, and this post will provide you with a checklist to help you get the most out of each experience.
How to Visit Colleges on Your Lists
Sometimes, students visit college campuses to decide whether or not to apply there. In other cases, they know that a particular college is a perfect match for their major and they want to investigate further.
Schedule Visits Strategically
Let’s assume your child has applied to—or is interested in applying to—eight colleges. At a basic level, you’ll need to make sure you have enough time to visit them, and how far they are located from your home will help to dictate how much time these visits will take. As part of this scheduling, you might ask yourself these questions:
• Which of these campuses are most important to visit? Prioritize appropriately.
• Which of these colleges are located closely to one another (at least relatively speaking)?
• Do I want to have an informal visit or do I want to be part of an official open house? If the latter, check as early as possible to see when these events are being held. Are there scheduling conflicts?
• How much time will each visit take?
• How can I space out these visits so we can be efficient without rushing through them?
• What is most important to see and do during each visit?
Pro tip: Once you know that you’ll be visiting a college, you can review its website and social media pages to gather intelligence ahead of time and gain key context.
When Do Virtual College Visits Make Sense?
Perhaps, as just one example, there is a college that is more challenging to visit than others on your list. In that case, consider going on a virtual tour.
By doing so, you may discover that this college isn’t as appealing as you’d originally thought (which might cause it to drop on your priority list) or it may make you realize that, yes, you need to make a physical tour happen.
One option is eCampusTours . Using this tool, you can receive 360° views of more than 1,300 different campuses at no cost. While there, students can register to win a $1,000 college scholarship. You can also visit the websites of colleges of interest to see what virtual tours they offer; here is one by Harvard University .
As a related resource, on YouTube EDU , you can find videos created by students as they share moving into their dorms, along with conversations with professors, classroom lectures, and more.
You can use the Rate My Professors tool, too, to find information about who teaches at a particular school, noting that ratings are subjective and can be used, as just one example, by students who aren’t happy with grades received.
What to Bring to a College Visit
During college visits, you’ll likely be flooded with information and visual impressions, plus with thoughts, ideas, conversations, and more. So, it makes sense to bring something to help you capture all of this information to review later, as needed.
In this quest, your smartphone can be a real asset. You can use it to take pictures of intriguing places on campus or to remind you to ask questions about it. Take videos in the same way and/or record explanations given by college officials. Before you leave for your college visits, determine what capabilities your smartphone or other mobile devices don’t have, and supplement accordingly.
And, wonderful as technological devices are, don’t forget to bring old-fashioned pen and paper. You might also want to bring along a college visit planner, one where you can list crucial dates and deadlines.
Depending upon how long you’ll stay, make sure you bring enough comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing—and, perhaps most important of all, comfy shoes! You may be doing a whole lot of walking. Will you need an umbrella?
A warmer coat than what you might need at home? Mittens? Or, will it be sunny and warm, requiring sunglasses and sunscreen? You’ll want to have these things on hand to make the visit as comfortable as possible. After all, you’re there to give your full attention to the tour—not your cold hands or soaked shoes.
Key Questions to Ask
Sometime during the tour, you’ll almost certainly be shown student housing options. Now is the time to ask about the range of dorm choices, how many students live on campus, what percentage of students live on campus versus off-campus, what apartment options exist for, say, juniors and seniors—and any other questions you or your child have about housing.
Other questions to consider:
• How safe is this campus and the surrounding area?
• What kind of security do you have?
• What activities are available for students?
• Who is allowed to have a car?
• Where can they park?
• What transportation options are available for students without a car?
You can also ask academic-related questions you have, ranging from sizes of classes, the use of teaching assistants, how much homework is assigned and how much time it typically take to complete assignments, and more. How easy is it for students to get the classes they need? Is there an honors program? What kind of tutoring services are available?
Other questions can focus on graduation records. These may include:
• What is the four-year graduation rate at the college?
• How many freshmen return for their sophomore year?
• What internship opportunities are available? How easy are they to obtain?
• How many students study abroad? What opportunities are available?
• What career services do you offer?
Financial Issues to Explore
• This is an ideal time to get information about typical financial aid packages offered at each college. These questions may include:
• What financial aid can a typical freshman expect to receive at the college?
• What mix of scholarships, grants, and loans can be expected, on average?
• What work-study opportunities exist and how easy is it for a student to qualify?
• If there is scholarship money set aside at a college for students, what are its parameters? Some, for example, may be set aside for female students or minority students.
• How are the scholarships awarded?
• What aid is available after your child’s freshman year?
• How many students take, say, five years to graduate and why does that happen?
• Are enough classes offered at flexible times to help students graduate in under four years (and therefore potentially save significant sums of money)?
• If your child doesn’t qualify for federal work-study, what other jobs are available on campus? Off-campus?
It isn’t unusual for students to need to borrow money to pay for their education. Scholarships and grants are available to help qualified students reduce college expenses and, sometimes, parents may help their children out financially.
Students can get jobs while in college and use their savings to help pay expenses, of course. But if that isn’t enough, many students typically end up borrowing money, with the two main sources being federal student loans (from the government) and private student loans (from private lenders).
To qualify for federal funding, you and your child must fill out the FAFSA®. (In the interest of complete transparency, SoFi believes you should explore all federal aid options before turning to private student loans.)
Parent Student Loans With SoFi
If you’re interested in obtaining private funding to help your child pay for college, then SoFi has a no fee, competitive-rate parent student loan. It’s fast and easy to apply online, and you could gain the peace of mind of knowing that SoFi can help to cover the full cost of your child’s college attendance with no fees and no fuss.
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