Spring break is fast approaching (April 6-10) for the William S. Hart Union High School District. For high school juniors, seniors and their parents, it is an important (and exciting) time to check out potential college landing spots. Here’s a few tips to make your college tour trips as productive, and stress-free, as possible.
The window is rapidly closing on budget airline and hotel reservations for your college spring break campus tours. Hotels fill up fast near college campuses at this time of year. Budget your time wisely, make sure you take the time to see everything on campus you feel you need to make a well-informed decision.
Take a virtual tour
Many colleges offer online “virtual” campus tours. Check out the schools you’re interested in. Weed out the campuses that don’t leave a good first impression online. It will save you time and money.
Do your research
Is your student’s preferred college known as a “party” school? Does it have a reputation as a diploma mill? Does the school have a highly ranked department in the area of your student’s major course of study?
What are the safety statistics of the campus? Is there enough available housing? What is the weather like?
Many a Santa Clarita Valley student has relocated to the snowy Midwest or humid South only to discover that they can’t tolerate, or are unprepared for the weather.
Talk to current students
While campus tour guides may be able to answer many of your academic questions, it is also true they are paid to show their school in a positive light. Talk to a random cross-section of students on campus to get a clearer picture of a school’s culture.
Make sure to ask enough questions. Do you feel safe on campus at night? What activities are available for students? How do you feel about the surrounding community? Are the professors accessible and approachable? Do you feel you are getting an education worth the money you are spending? Are dorms and dining halls clean and safe?
Visit dorms, dining halls, student centers
You can’t really get a feel for the college until you’ve visited dorms, dining halls and the student union. Find a variety of off-campus locations where students gather, and check out the atmosphere.
Don’t forget to check out student parking costs and accessibility. These experiences will give you a sense of what it would be like to be a student at that institution.
Explore housing costs
Dorms or apartments? Are there options to rent a room in a private house? Many housing options are limited by the community surrounding the college. Is it located a large metropolitan city, or a small college-town, or somewhere in between?
Before finalizing a college visit, do online research to discover how easy, or difficult, it is to obtain affordable housing for the college of your choice. It may be the perfect college for you, but the realities of the current housing crises in many communities can severely impact your choice, much more than in years past.
Know your options, more than one student has been left in an expensive lurch when their high school “buddy” changes plans, or leaves school after only a month.
Some schools require freshmen to live on campus. Find out the restrictions of the college you’re looking at.
If you are visiting several schools make sure you take detailed notes of your impressions and observations. You think you’ll remember every moment of your trip, but visiting multiple locations can result in “trip fatigue” where everything ends up “running together.”
If you take photos, remember to be polite and don’t take photos in private, or inappropriate areas. Above all, if you take extensive notes, you will give yourself a better chance of more accurately remembering the impressions, good and bad, you had along the way.
Take a class
Before leaving on your trip, see if you can arrange to attend a class. Nothing will give you a better idea of what it is like to be a student at a specific university or college than attending an actual class.
Explore the city
Don’t limit yourself just to the campus. See the town. Find a grocery store, a pharmacy, medical facilities, historic, cultural and entertainment locations. Read up on the town’s history. What transportation options are located convenient to the campus? Learn about special festivals and fairs specific to your student’s new potential “home.”
Setting up for success
This will be a special time in your young adult’s life, it is important your student feels comfortable and excited about this new adventure.
Attending college or university is not just about getting a good education, it is about learning life skills and becoming part of a network of associates that contribute to a pathway of success.