Parents of high school juniors might wonder if it is worth the time and money to take their student on campus visits, especially if the student is already set on attending a particular college. In most cases, it is still definitely worth having a “look-see.” For one thing, it might make a difference in your student’s chances at being accepted into a particular college. If there are two students who appear equal in all other aspects of their application, the edge might just go to the student who has already visited the campus. Here are some more good reasons why it makes sense to check out a college before going through the entire application process:
• Find out how much travel is involved: If the student’s college is not in your home town, think about how many times you will have to travel back and forth to provide transportation. At a minimum, there is the initial drop-off in the fall, Thanksgiving break, Christmas/winter break, spring break, and the return home in the spring. Add up your costs and multiply that by twenty (five trips every year for four years) to get an estimate of your travel costs. It could be a budget-buster when you’re paying tuition costs and still maintaining your household expenses.
• Get a real feel for the campus and the surrounding area: No school is going to show anything negative on a website, so there are just some things you must see for yourself. You and your student both want to form an impression of the campus itself as well as the surrounding community. Would you feel comfortable knowing that your child is walking alone through certain parts of town near campus? Does your child like a campus that is out in the “middle of nowhere with nothing to do?” These are intangible factors that are worth discussing.
• You get to meet people: You’ll want to take a campus visit, of course, but also spend some time on your own just walking around and meeting people. Try to talk to students in your child’s major, or ask if you can sit in on a few classes or meet some professors. Get to know people your child will be interacting with at all levels to find out if they seem helpful.
• Get the facts: This is a great time to get the facts you will need to make the final college choice. Meet with admissions and financial aid representatives and have a list of questions prepared. Ask how much the typical student pays, and what is factored into that total. Find out how much the typical student in your financial situation receives in financial aid and student loans. Determine whether financial aid stays the same every year, and request data about how many students drop out after the first year or graduate in four years. Finally, you want to get real statistics on whether this school’s graduates get jobs and how much they earn.