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College campus tours – five tips to success

Taylor Wiebold at a college tour at the University of Texas in July.

By Terri Wiebold

High school students who are entering their senior year are likely starting to think about what college or university they would like to attend, if they are planning on pursuing higher education following graduation. With a college sophomore and an upcoming high school senior myself, I am fairly familiar with this process. Here are five tips that have made our college search more productive and rewarding:

1 Start planning early. You don’t have to be an incoming senior to start your search. With early admission applications yielding a high acceptance rate, being at the front of the line of applicants can be a good thing. If you start looking early, this communicates to the college your eagerness about them – which is critical.

2 Start with a virtual tour. It is amazing the amount of information you can learn (and see) about a college and campus by exploring websites. Many colleges have high-quality videos of the campus, some done with drones and one we saw recently that was from a student-flown helicopter. Most general questions can be answered by the website and a general lay-of-the-land is a great starting point.

3 Visit while on vacation. Summer is a great time to see college campuses, and taking a short diversion on a family trip makes getting to campuses easier and more affordable – particularly out of state. Even if it is not a college you are considering, a tour can be very useful in seeing what options are out there. One drawback to visiting during vacations or school breaks is that the students are not on campus and the “energy” is much different than when classes are in session. If you visit when school is in session, be sure to stop and chat with students about their experiences; you might be surprised by the advice and recommendations they give.

4 Pick up literature.
And not just college brochures, but anything that is on or around campus. On a recent college tour out-of-state, I picked up a magazine written and published by students. It was all about the community homeless problem and the high crime rate off campus. The article was meant to inspire students to get involved, but as a parent considering sending my daughter out-of-state to school, it was a bit eye opening.

5 Communicate with the school. Letting the school admissions office know that you are coming is far more informational and beneficial than just showing up on campus. Recruitment is a big business and colleges want to know you and make you feel welcome while visiting. Set up an appointment to talk with the financial aid counselor as well as sign up for a guided tour of the campus – the dining halls, dormitories and classrooms. Another benefit to maintaining communication with the school is that they know you are interested and they “track” your application.

There are tons of additional resources available online and through the local high school counseling offices; these are just a few personal experiences that helped us make the most out of our college visits. If you have additional experiences to share, visit and blog comments on this story.



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