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How to Decide Which Colleges to Visit Your Junior Year

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How to Decide Which Colleges to Visit Your Junior Year

The life of a high school junior is a busy one! They’re working through classes to keep their GPA up, participating in clubs or sports, and starting to think seriously about their college career. During your student’s junior year, one of the most important to-do tasks is to decide which colleges to visit. So, how does your student decide which colleges to visit and which are the most important “must see” locations?  Today, we’re sharing a few tips to help your high school junior decide which colleges to visit! 

Why Should You Plan College Visits?

College visits can feel like one more thing to do in an already busy school year. Campus visits can be very helpful in narrowing your student’s choices. There’s nothing that’s going to be as helpful to your student as actually standing on the campus and feeling the vibe and location in person. It will be important to visit and speak with other students, resident assistants (RAs), and even the financial office, if you’re able to. Your student should walk around the campus and get a peek at housing. It’s helpful to understand what a day might look like around the school. 

What Kind of Colleges Should You Visit?

You may have heard before that there are three types of colleges to apply to in the fall: dream, target, and safety. What do those terms actually mean?

  • Dream schools might seem like they are out of reach, but they still have some type of appeal to you because of their reputation, location, academic programs, or campus environment. It’s possible they’re a little more expensive, or maybe the application criteria is more rigorous. They’re schools that could be out of reach financially unless you receive sufficient financial aid.
  • The target schools are those that fit most of your criteria, and where you are most likely to be accepted. Target schools are also likely to be the schools which have costs in line with what your family expects to pay for college.
  • Safety schools are those which are most likely to accept you, and that you will probably be able to afford. These might be schools with campuses close to your hometown, or public universities in states which offer a high amount of tuition assistance. 

How to Decide Which Colleges to Visit

Now that we understand why to visit college campuses in person and the types of schools your student should be thinking about, we can discuss how to pick their final list: 

  • Think about the cost of attending: Figuring out how much you are going to pay for college might seem like it is a long way down the road, but it can be helpful to do some rough calculations now. Look at the websites of the colleges on your list. There, you can try to determine what the average student pays after financial aid is taken into consideration. You might be surprised to find that your dream school is more affordable than originally thought! Add in factors like cost of travel and living expenses, and then have an honest discussion about what your family can really afford to pay.
  • Find more ways to pay for college: Your student might have a few schools in mind, but they seem out of reach financially for your family. Look into ways that you might be able to make those schools more affordable for them and for you. Getting creative about saving money and looking for scholarships is important. Work together to find and earn money that might provide the necessary extra boost you need to reach a particular financial level.
  • Talk to people: Look for social media pages of the colleges you want to attend and talk to some of the current students about how they are making ends meet. Find out what it realistically costs to attend this school, so that you will know whether it should be a target or a dream.

Now what?

After you and your student know where the schools fall on their list (dream, target, safety) and you’ve discussed the financial components, it’s time to decide which are the schools they’re most interested in. That final list will help you decide which ones to visit. Aim for at least two target schools and one dream school. Once you have your list, make the travel plans! It’s also important to begin to brainstorm the questions you have for students, professors, admissions, and financial aids. Another pro tip? Don’t forget to look for visits being hosted by the school. They often have more activities and chances for interactions with the community! 

While all of this might seem like a lot of work now, these steps will make your application process more realistic and less stressful when the time comes for your high school junior! 

Learn more about CFAA!

CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my bi-weekly JustAskJodi emails. Don’t forget to join my monthly CFAA e-newsletter, too!

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