Spring break is right around the corner. If you have a high school junior, that means hopefully you’ll be breaking out the atlas and planning to see at least a few college campuses.
Many families who already have vacations planned are asking, “Is it really that important? Can’t we just visit after they’re accepted?”
Sorry, but my answer is “No!” Nothing can replace the first-hand experience of seeing the other students, eating in the dining hall, taking in the architecture and the school’s proximity to restaurants and shops, etc.
Seeing a college is the true litmus test for that indescribable sensation of “This feels like home” or, equally important, “This just doesn’t work for me.”
“We encourage any student planning for college to try to visit the schools they are strongly considering,” says Patty Baum, assistant director of admissions at UNC Chapel Hill.
“After all, the school a student chooses will end up being their intellectual and social home for four years. If you’re not getting a good feeling during your campus visit, that’s probably not the school for you.”
What’s involved in a campus visit?
The traditional visit lasts two hours or so and includes an information session, led by an admissions office representative, and a campus tour, typically led by a student ambassador.
Make arrangements for your campus visit online through the admissions tab of each college’s website. Many colleges offer several tours and information sessions daily. Register as soon as possible since some schools fill up, especially during spring break.
Visiting colleges helps narrow choices and makes the remainder of the college search process go more smoothly. As an added perk, college visits frequently help motivate students to work a little harder in school, commit a little more to their extracurricular activities and understand the seriousness of this key decision.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com
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