The Key Question During a College Visit: Does the Student Fit?
After all the research you’ve done into academic programs, costs, and scholarships, you’ve reached the point in your college search where you’re not just finding a college, you’re searching for a home. You and your junior high school student are trying to decide where he or she will live for the next four years. We all need an environment that will allow us to flourish.
Here are some things to think about:
- Do your homework: Don’t waste valuable time on campus asking for information readily available on the Web. Figure out what you still need to know, and have a list of questions ready.
- Break off from the pack: Do people like it here? You might have to veer away from the guided tour to get candid answers. Yes, many tours are led by students, but keep in mind that the college picked them to lead tours because they love it there. Wander around the student union or random places on campus and ask other students what they think.
- Explore the surrounding community: Are there activities available in the area that will round out your school experience, such as parks, recreation areas, museums, and other extracurricular activities?
- Consider a weekday trip: Weekend travel might be more convenient, but you might benefit from seeing the college in full swing during the week. Can you sit in on a class? If so, pick at least two. There’s a big difference between large freshman-level classes and smaller upper-level classes.
- What is there to do? The Olympic-size pool that looks great in the brochure might be aged and decrepit. Check out such facilities if they’re important to you. Are organizations—club sports, fraternities and sororities, marching band—available and active?
- Does my student “fit” here? Some students thrive at big colleges while others are more comfortable at small campuses. A city kid might not be happy in a rural setting—or the change of scenery might be perfect. A timid scholar could be uncomfortable at a school the size of a small U.S. city no matter how strong the academic program is—or he might be able to find a community within the school where he feels at home. Have this conversation with your student during the tour: Can you see yourself living here?
Academics are important, but keep in mind that each student has different needs when it comes to campus life and extracurricular activities. Have your own insights on how to find a school that fits? Share your experiences here!