There is a laundry list of tips and questions to consider before a student (and family) select the right institution of higher education to attend. To really get a feel for the pulse of the institution, I suggest attending college fairs to talk to representatives outside of their regular environment, attending college tours to see campus life first hand, and attending an Open House where the institution puts their best and brightest on display.
College Fair – At a college fair, you have the opportunity to talk with a school representative, obtain marketing materials, and see how the institution in question compares to other universities. Many college fairs have on the spot admissions interviews and/or waive application fees for students in attendance. Some things to pay attention to include:
- Punctuality – did the representative arrive on time?
- Appearance – was the representative dressed professionally (school paraphernalia is also appropriate)
- Preparation – was the representative prepared to answer your questions, did they have enough materials for those in attendance?
- Manners – was the representative polite and attentive to all participants?
College Tour – the best college tour takes place when college students are in school. You get to see students walking around campus, taking classes, and eating in the cafeteria. A dorm visit is a must. This is a great way to find out if the students are friendly and what random students think about the institution. A group college tour provides a different experience than an individual college tour. Temperament and personality of students should be considered when deciding which tour is best. I recommend both types for students who haven’t reached senior year. Some students are more willing to speak up and ask questions when they are with a group of other students. Other students are too shy to speak up and a personal or individual tour may be best. Many organizations (including sororities and fraternities) take students on week long college tours. Overnight tours can be an academically and socially rewarding experience — teens are able to exercise independence and bond with other students. These tours also allow students who may otherwise be unable to travel between states to do so. Missing 3-7 days of school to attend a group college tour is not recommended for students who are struggling academically. It may be a better idea to schedule an individual tour on a day that high schools are closed.
Open House – An open house is usually a “production” where the university brings together a large group of staff, faculty and students to host your visit. You may see the choir perform or athletes at a “pep rally”. Often times there are break out sessions where students and parents separate to get different perspectives on the institution. If the open house occurs on a weekend, you may be unable to see students attending classes or some buildings may be closed. This is also a great way to see other prospective students and families. A dorm visit is essential.
Parents, whatever you choose to do (or not do) please use the college admissions process as a time to bond with your child. It is just as stressful for you as it is for them. Let’s keep it real…it is so much MORE stressful for the child.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic empowerment strategies to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.