It’s the time of year when high school seniors, and even juniors, begin their “college visits” journey. There are so many factors for scholars and their families to consider when choosing the right college. Many high schools like Compass Charter Schools (CCS) even offer college counseling services to help scholars find the best school for them. College counselors can also guide scholars through the college application process and help them apply for scholarships.
Every college offers their own unique style of campus tours. However regardless of the schools you choose to visit, here are six important ways to make each experience more valuable:
Set Your Priorities
Before setting off to visit colleges, take a moment to think about what kind of school best fits your personal preferences. What qualities and opportunities are you looking for to determine if a certain college is the right fit for you? Consider writing a checklist of the factors that matter most to you and your family. Would you like to attend a small or a large school? Are you interested in playing sports in college? Creating a list of priorities will help you find the right school and achieve success in college. Here are a few more important factors to add to your checklist:
- What type of campus location are you looking for? (rural or urban)
- Are you interested in extracurricular activities? If so, what kind?
- What type of campus culture is best for you? (social and spiritual)
- Does the college offer the level of academic support that you need?
- Which college has the most competitive academic program in your area of interest?
It’s important to remember to ask questions during each of your college tours. Don’t be afraid to ask each of your tour guides a lot of questions. Typically, each tour guide will walk you through the main parts of campus like an academic building, the library, student center, and maybe even a dorm room and dining hall. Throughout each tour take a moment to ask the guides about the information they’re discussing with you. It’s also important to listen to the questions that other families ask during the tour. They may ask an important question that you didn’t think of. Here are a few more good questions to ask your college tour guides:
- Is this campus safe? What is campus security like?
- Are the dorms co-ed? Are they “substance-free?”
- Is this a handicap accessible campus?
- Does this school offer counseling?
- Are there support programs for scholars with disabilities?
- Are there spiritual resources available for scholars on campus?
- Does this school host any events like concerts or theater performances for the scholars?
- What is the local community like?
Talk to the Scholars
After each college tour, consider taking a moment to stroll through the campus on your own. This is a great time to ask the current college scholars about their personal experience at the school. While the campus tour guides should be able to answer most of your questions, it can be very helpful to get an inside perspective from a college scholar. First, ask the scholars if they have a moment to talk with you about the school. Then, ask them about campus culture and about their freshman year experience. Did they ever feel homesick? If so, how did they overcome that feeling? What is the food like on campus? You can ask the scholars some of the same questions that you asked the tour guide and compare their answers to get a clear picture of the school’s culture.
Get Financial Aid Information
It’s no secret that college is an expensive venture and student debt is a concern for recent college graduates. Before leaving your college visits, be sure to visit each school’s financial aid office to collect valuable information about scholarships, grants, loans and more. If possible, try to schedule a meeting with a financial aid counselor at each school. Finances are a critical factor to consider when choosing the right school. It’s important that you and your family understand the cost of each school. Then, you can decide if you need to apply for a student loan, scholarships, and financial aid. While meeting with the financial aid counselors, ask them to explain the type of financial support that you may be eligible for. They can even help you find scholarship opportunities to help lower the cost of your college experience.
Explore Academic Departments
It’s important to think about what subject area you would like to study while in college. Think about what kind of job you would like to have after college. What school subject should you focus on to help you get that job after college? While you’re on campus, be sure to visit the academic buildings that hold classes in your area of interest. Those same buildings may also have offices that belong to the professors who teach classes in your area of interest. Take a walk through those academic buildings, peek inside the classrooms and keep an eye out for a professor in the building. If you find one, ask them if they have a moment to talk about the academic program with you. Ask them about their background and how long they’ve been teaching at the school. What are class projects and assignments like? This is the perfect opportunity to find out what the academic experience in your area of interest is really all about.
Document Your Visit
Many scholars visit a few colleges before deciding which one is right for them. Keep track of each of your college tours by documenting each visit. Consider taking pictures of each school’s campus including the buildings, landscape and local neighborhood. You can also take videos of the parts of each campus that you liked and did not like. Carry a notepad with you during each visit and write down answers to the important questions that you or others asked during the tour. Once you’ve completed all of your college tours, review and compare everything that you documented during each college visit to help you decide which school is best for you.
Compass Charter Schools (CCS) is a WASC-accredited virtual charter school that serves families throughout California. Interested in learning more about school counseling services at CCS? Visit our website, or contact our counseling services team at [email protected] or (855) 937-4227 to learn more!