Part 1: Beginning College Visits with My Son
After all these years about writing about how to plan campus visits, what to see and do, and all the questions students and parents should ask on college visits, I’m finally doing this with my son, a high school senior. We are just a month into visiting colleges and I’m learning how quickly the process has to be adapted to fit the student.
For example, prior to his senior year, we only visited a few colleges (two while in middle school and one during junior year). For years, my goal was to have him visit seven or eight colleges before his senior year so he’d be exposed to a wide variety of colleges and have a strong sense of where to apply in the fall.
Life does not always go as planned. Family needs, work, and his own desire not to miss a day of high school [EVER!] have impacted the window of opportunity for college visits. And then, there’s his interest level which did not peak until summer before senior year when friends, who were a year ahead of him, were heading off to college. All of a sudden his interest in colleges has grown and he’s interested in visiting the colleges where his friends have gone.
Though we have visited colleges in Florida and North Carolina so far, four public universities in our home state of Virginia are on his radar. I’ve suggested that we visit private colleges in the same areas as the publics because “we’re going to be there anyway.” Thankfully, he’s open to this.
Why is it important to visit both public and private universities?
Because public and private colleges are different from one another. These differences range from class size and faculty-to-student ratio-to areas of study-to the campus culture and community. And, yes, price. However, depending on where you live, endowments, scholarships, and many other factors, the cost of a private college education can be comparable to that of an in-state, public college. In other words, it’s worth exploring.
Surprises when registering for fall open house programs at colleges
If you read the Smart College Visit blog or participate in #CampusChat, our weekly Twitter chat, then you know we advocate letting the student drive the college selection process. I had my son register for the fall open house programs at the colleges where he wants to visit. When he came to me and said one registration form asked for “student type” and he wanted to know whether he was a freshman or a non-degree seeking student, I realized he had just stepped into the Twilight Zone of college admissions vernacular. The language sounds and reads like English, but the words are foreign.
I realized he had just stepped into the Twilight Zone of college admissions vernacular.
Why did he not instantly know his student type? Because he has not chosen a major. He’s currently “undecided” / unsure of which college major to choose. So in his way of thinking, if he is not declaring a major, he won’t be on a degree path, so therefore could be considered “non-degree seeking.” That was his logic. I assured him his student type is “freshman” but now I see about how easily a teen can become confused about where he or she fits in the college admission classification system. (And we have not even gotten to definitions for Early Decision, Early Action or Rolling Admission!)
September and October are going to be extremely busy months in our college visit lives. Each step–each visit–leads him closer to figuring out which college will be the best fit and, perhaps, closer to choosing a major as well. Looks like we’ll both be learning a lot on this journey.
Care to share your story with us?
For travel logistics — directions, restaurants, and a list of hotels near campus —
go to Explore Colleges (or click the button below) and search for the name of the college you want to visit.