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How to Decide Which College Campuses to Visit Before Applying in the Fall

How to Decide Which College Campuses to Visit Before Applying in the Fall
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One of the most exciting parts of the college application process is actually deciding where to apply. There’s so many options! As spring break and summer vacation arrive, it can be a perfect time of year to schedule college visits. College visits are a great way to actually see which campuses might be a good fit for you, and to be able to talk to current students, the financial aid office, and visit the cities the schools are in. The first thing to do is narrow down your list and decide which college campuses to visit. 

In general, there are three types of colleges you should consider applying to in the fall – dream, target, and safety. The target schools are those that fit most of your criteria, and where you are most likely to be accepted. They are also likely to be the schools which have costs in line with what your family expects to pay for college. 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. Oftentimes these schools can be more expensive, but you’ve still got a possibility of acceptance and with financial aid, you could likely manage to go there.  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 home town, or public universities in states which offer a high amount of tuition assistance. 

With all of this in mind, it’s time to decide where to plan college visits. Here’s what to consider: 

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. It can be helpful to do some rough calculations before deciding where to visit. Take a close look at the websites of the colleges on your list. From there, try to determine what the average student pays after financial aid. Sometimes in this process, you may realize your “dream” schools are more affordable than you realized. When you’ve got those calculations done, plan to visit the ones that will be most realistic for your budget and are high on your interest list. 

Find more ways to pay for college

You 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. If the cost of travel is too high, search for ways to lower those expenses. If the campus is in a city, try to find out how current students keep their daily expenses low. Scholarships and other opportunities to earn money that might provide the necessary funds to reach a particular financial level. Again, cross examine your lists of financially acceptable schools and the ones that are of most interest to you. 

Talk to others

Remember, you are not the first person to ever apply to college. Look for social media pages of the colleges you want to attend. Talk to some of the current students about their experiences.  Find out what it realistically costs to attend this school, so that you will know whether it should be a target or a dream. Don’t forget about students who may have graduated and are attending from your own circle of friends and family! 

By the end of these reviews, you’ll have a smaller list of schools that will be worth the time to take a closer look. Once you have the list and have made travel plans with your parents, be prepared to get the most out of each campus visit by putting together a list of questions to ask professors, students, admissions, and financial aid. It might seem like a lot of work now – and it is. But finding the schools that could be right for you will make applying to college much easier! 

More about Jodi and College Financial Aid Advisors

Jodi is a FAFSA financial advisor who helps with the financial aid process to help families of college students maximize their financial aid. 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, Jodi is a fantastic resource when it comes to student financial aid. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. 

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