OK, I’m a parent of a college student so I do have some experience with going through the college process and have taken many a college tour. I’ve also been through the process multiple times as a student myself. I only say this to let you, the future college student know, that there are some things that you simply don’t know. When I was your age I probably also thought I knew everything and didn’t want to take advice from an adult. But experience is the best teacher and maybe in this post I can impart a little bit of what I have learned along the way.
1) Keep an open mind
My eldest child didn’t even want to go on the college tour at what ended up being her first choice college. She was, at the time, close-minded about the college because the amount of students at the school was comparable to the size of her high school. It was also in a rural area and at the time she thought she wanted to attend a college in the city. But, we as parents thought it would be good to check out this school due to its great reputation and fairly close proximity to our home (within 2 hours). To make a long story short, after the tour, this college became her first choice and luckily she was accepted there and is now in her sophomore year and loving every minute of it. Even if you don’t think that a college could be a good fit for you, give it a chance. Open your mind to the possibility of going there. Then, if after the information session and the tour you’re still turned off, at least you gave it a chance.
2) Visit the college’s website ahead of time
Much like a business, one of the best marketing tools for any college is their website. A prospective student can learn so much from just perusing the college website prior to the visit. You oftentimes can take a virtual tour and view pictures and stories about current featured students. Some colleges even have live webcams, such as my daughter’s college website. I sometimes look in on my daughter’s dining hall via one of the webcams just to see if I could get a glimpse of my daughter getting her nightly meal. She thinks I’m creepy for doing this but when you miss your child you will explore every avenue to catch a glimpse of her. If you want to do your homework prior to your visit to the college, the amount of information you can find on the college website is tremendous. Take advantage of this opportunity.
3) Organize the literature you collect
Organizational skills are very important. Believe me, if you are visiting multiple colleges within a few days, all of the information you hear will mesh together. It will be difficult for you as a prospective student to keep all of the information separate. Either pick up a notebook for each school or pick up one of those foldable notebooks with the pockets to place the different literature packets you will pick up at each admissions center. You can also take notes during the information session and tour and keep those notes together with the literature. If you do end up applying to the college, you will be able to refer to your notes and the literature which you can use in your essay as part of the application package.
4) Get the name of your admissions counselor
Each college has a number of admissions counselors. Each counselor is assigned a certain geographic area. Each counselor will go to high schools in their area and talk about the college. They will also be the ones who will read your application and your essays. It will behoove you to get the name of that admissions counselor especially if you are really interested in attending or at least applying to that college. After the college tour you may even be able to meet and introduce yourself to the counselor in your geographic area. You should try to get that person’s email address so that you could send along any specific questions that you may have. In fact, the person giving the presentation at the information session may just be the admissions counselor assigned to your geographic area. After the presentation, go up and introduce yourself. It might turn out to be the smartest thing you could ever do.
5) Ask questions
Since you have already perused the college website prior to your visit, there may be lingering questions you just haven’t had answered. Now is your chance to speak up and get your questions answered. Chances are there are others in the audience who want the answers to the same questions. The tour is always led by
a current student and this is another great chance to ask an actual college student questions about student life. And the tour guides are always willing to give out their email addresses at the end of the tour. Don’t be shy about asking questions. This could be your home for four years and, if you aren’t willing to speak up, you just might miss out on some very pertinent information.
Searching for the right place for you, as a student, to go to college is a daunting task. There are so many choices out there and it is up to you to take some initiative and improve your organizational skills, if you are hoping to make the right choice of where to apply. Remember, don't leave it all up to Mom and Dad. This is your future here and taking part in a successful college tour is a great step in the right direction.