April 2012 E-Newsletter

posted Apr 9, 2012, 2:04 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Apr 9, 2012, 2:07 PM ]


    Have you ever purchased something online only to discover, after it was delivered, that it wasn’t exactly what you thought it would be?  It’s the same way with schools.

    A college education can be one of the most significant investments a family makes, so it’s best to discover, before it’s “delivered,” whether or not that school really fits.

    Investigating a school online through both its own website and third-party websites is definitely the first step.  Bear in mind, however, that not everything can be determined by or described on a website and that the school’s own website is primarily a PR tool.  When you initially research a school, one of the main questions you should be asking is, “Do I like this school enough to visit it?” 

    When you’ve chosen several schools to visit, plan “the great college road trip.”  It’s always less expensive to see several schools in one trip, plus it gives you an immediate level of comparison.  Ideally, your college list will have a variety of schools—public, private, small, and large.  Visit them all, and evaluate them individually and comparatively.

     With today’s technology, planning a college road trip is fairly easy.  While the parent can and should assist in the logistics, the student should take ownership of the experience by communicating with the schools.  Most of the time, a college will have a website page where you can sign up for an information session and campus tour.  I usually advise students, however, if they are serious about the school, to also schedule a one-on-one admissions interview (not every school will do this) and perhaps arrange to sit in on a class or meet with a professor.  Some schools even allow students to spend the night in the dorm with prior notice.

     Prior to the visit, I suggest that students and parents thoroughly research the school, determine their most important criteria, and, once they are on campus, that they evaluate each of those criteria. Of particular importance are the opportunities that the student will be given, both in and outside his major. I also tell students to prepare a list of questions to ask the admissions officer as well as the student tour guide. Additionally, students should prepare for an admissions interview (if one is scheduled) by thinking about what questions might be asked of them, particularly why they want to attend that school or study that major as well as how they would answer, “Tell me a little about yourself.” 

     In addition to exploring the campus itself, a family should investigate the university’s surrounding area—cultural or outdoor activities, cost of living, and safety.  During the campus visit, families should take copious notes because the schools will start to “mesh” in their minds. 

     While parents do have a vested interest in the school their student attends, I recommend that parents give the student a little time to write down his own impressions before discussing the school.  In that way, the student can evaluate the school from his perspective, then incorporate the parents’ feedback, which they should definitely discuss. 

     Ideally, students should visit college when school is in session, but if this is impossible, a family can visit in the summer.  Just realize that a campus will be somewhat different during an academic session. 

     Visiting colleges is valuable, and ideally, it should be done before the student applies (in case the student wants to eliminate the school from his list).  Seeing a university “up close and personal” versus reading about it online is like the difference between buying something from a catalogue and purchasing something at the mall.  Returning a piece of clothing to the store will only cost you a little time and money, but returning a college choice could be quite a mistake.  Invest your time and money in a visit and “try it on for size.”

    As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

    Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.