The Campus Visit: According To The Experts

by College Advisor NY on April 28, 2017

By Erin Wheeler, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor  of New York

I love a good road trip!  Sunny weather, loud music, junk food and good company.  It’s always fun to hit the open road and see new places, meet new people and enjoy new experiences.  Taking those trips with family or friends to visit colleges is a huge part of every student’s college search process.

The students we work with at The College Advisor of New York are busy during the spring, summer and early fall months completing visits at colleges that are a good match for their needs.  But there are many types of visit options to consider – some structured and others more flexible.

Virtual Tour – See the campus without leaving your house! Check out the admissions section of the college’s website to find their virtual tour.  Some are done with photos, others are more interactive, but in either case they can give a nice introduction to the campus and facilities.

Discovery Day – Many colleges offer a day for high school underclassmen to come and learn about the school and the application process in general.  It’s a good chance to see a campus and learn how college admissions work.

General Campus Tour – Almost every student will go on a large group tour before submitting applications.  These tours are scheduled by the admissions office and usually led by a current college student.  It takes about an hour to visit some classrooms, residence halls, dining and athletic facilities.  Popular programs are usually highlighted along with visits to that area of campus.  Please consider the time of year, if possible, when planning your trip.  If the visit is during a college break, you’ll see the campus but not the college community.  It’s important to try to schedule visits while the college is in session!  Tour schedules can be found on college websites and you must register for them directly through that link.  This is a very important component of “Demonstrated Interest” as most admission offices keep record of these visits.

Information Session – During an information session one of the members of the admissions team gives an overview of the school, highlighting specific programs and reviewing the application process.  Often, these are coupled with a campus tour and a question and answer session.

Open House – An open house is a great way to cover a lot of ground in one visit.  There will be a general presentation about the school, large campus tours, faculty, staff and athletic coaches available to answer questions, current students to connect with and facilities to see.    Students can find answers to their unique questions about the school in order decide if that college is staying on the list!

Individual Tour or Meal – These opportunities are valuable experiences!  Some time can be spent with a current student, seeing the campus and enjoying the dining hall together.  This is the perfect way to ask specific questions.  Just keep in mind that the information is from this student’s perspective and not everyone has the same opinion.

Class Observation – Just as it sounds!  This is the opportunity to sit in on a college class and get an idea of a professor’s teaching style, the size of the classes, classroom facilities and makeup of the student body.

Accepted Students Day – Once an offer of admission is made, invitations for these events are sent.  There are usually a few days to choose from, and the college welcomes all of the freshmen and transfer students to campus one more time.  These visits often help incoming students make final decisions, get detailed questions answered, find housing possibly take placement exams.  We find these programs to be invaluable!

Recruiting (Athletics) Visit – These programs are set up through the athletic department by a coach who is recruiting the student for a specific sport.  They usually involve spending the day on campus with a current team member, observing a class, going to meals, observing practice or a game and possibly  spending the night.  It’s wise to also let the admissions office know about scheduled recruiting visits prior to arriving on campus.

Overnight Stay – There are schools that allow prospective students to come to campus for an overnight visit with a student who is in the same area of interest, playing the same sport or is an admissions ambassador.  These visits can be tricky, especially if the prospective student doesn’t connect with the host.  An extended day visit or overnight stay with a family friend who attends that college may prove to be more helpful.

It’s important to mention that students don’t have to take part in every visit opportunity.  Throughout the search process, it will become obvious which campuses need more attention and which need less.  By having a good understanding of the definitions of each type of campus visit, students can choose which one best suits their needs.

Regardless of which type you make, college visits give students the understanding to evaluate the school for academic, social and programmatic fit.  As such we highly encourage you to visit.  Happy trails!

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Decisions, Decisions!

by College Advisor NY on April 12, 2017

By Deb Coco

It’s finally that time of year.  Our students have visited, visited again, applied and of course, WAITED.  May 1 is just a few weeks away.

If you are like most students, you’ve received offers from several schools and now it’s time to buckle down and weigh your options.  It’s more difficult than it seems, because all schools are not created equal.  And most likely your offers are not either.  Some schools may have given you some financial aid and others possibly merit scholarships.  Often the “dream” school didn’t offer money, but the safety did; do you choose the school with “cache” or do you take the money and run?  So many factors go into deciding which college or university to attend and you’re wise to mull it over.  Here’s some tried and true advice about how to weigh this decision, which is possibly the biggest of your life thus far!

For most students in 2017, money matters.  Even if you were not a financial aid candidate, it’s hard to turn down a large (or even small) merit scholarship.  Keep these facts in mind:  merit money is yours, it’s an award based on your academic achievement and you should be proud of it.  You will also not be required to pay it back – which is extremely enticing in today’s world of trillions in student loan debt.  However, financial aid is the name of the game for a huge pool of students and some of it WILL have to be repaid.  Whether your package involves loans, grants, work study, or a blend of the three, once you graduate they become your first mortgage.  So, the bigger the loan the more weight on you to be quickly and gainfully employed upon graduation.  Consider this when making your choice; what does school “X” offer students in terms of job placement?  Every college and university has a department of career counseling and some are better than others.  Check into it and see what alums have to say about this important factor.  Career counseling offices “should” post their statistics on job placement and be there to answer your questions; if they are not, buyer beware.

There is also much talk about “fit” and with good reason; there are thousands of colleges and no two are alike.  After acceptances go out, so do “Admitted Student Day” invitations.  Don’t turn these down or think you already know everything there is to know about a school; if possible, take the time to attend these special days.  Schools roll out the red carpet for their accepted students and you’ll have the opportunity to be much more intimate with faculty and students than on your initial campus tours.  One of my daughters was extremely perplexed about her final decision and the accepted student day at her university “knocked it out of the park” and cinched it for her.  They are valuable opportunities to make a final evaluation and should definitely play a role if you’re on the fence!

And last but never, ever least; I’ve always believed there is a case to be made for trusting your gut.  I tell students that their feedback on schools is based on that “gut” reaction they have when they step onto a campus.  Do these students look like people I’ll feel comfortable living with for four years?  Is the physical campus one that excites me?  I love schools with an “old” feel; I’ve had students feel exactly the opposite and want a modern, “techy” like vibe.  These factors, and others, matter; pay attention to them.  Other issues may need to matter more, but if all else is equal, there is a case to be made for choosing what feels “right.”

It’s more likely than not that you will ultimately end up where you’re meant to be.  However, it took a long time to visit, study, take those SATs, write your essay AND apply; don’t jump the gun on the biggest part of all.  Most importantly, congratulations!  You’ve completed the most difficult part – now enjoy your success.

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