Time for college visits

I made my first college visit when I was 10. Two of my older sisters went to Iowa State at the time, and I spent the weekend in their dorm. I ate from the vending machine, slept in a loft bed, met their friends, and took in the campus sights. It was so cool. This was where I pictured myself going to college.

First impressions are lasting. Fast forward eight years and I was also going to Iowa State, living in the same dorm complex where I’d first visited my sisters.

Did I make other campus visits? Explore my options? Sort of. I visited friends at other universities—like Drake—where I’d applied, but didn’t officially visit any of them. ISU is where I’d pictured myself for years; it was hard to imagine myself anywhere else.

Looking back, I didn’t make a bad decision by any means. But it probably would have been smarter of me to open my mind to other options.

As you start making campus visits, be sure to keep an open mind. Maybe you’re set on going to a nearby school, or one your siblings, parents, or friends attended. If so, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Consider trying to visit several different schools (especially if you’re starting the process early). Don’t automatically rule out a small or large school on that basis alone, without at least taking a look.

Consider a variety of factors when you’re visiting the school: programs they offer in your major, what campus culture is like, what extra-curricular activities are available, what the surrounding community has to offer. Be sure to schedule visits with an advisor in your major and with the financial aid office, if you have college financing questions.

For those of you who’ve recently made campus visits, do you have any advice to offer?

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
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One Response to Time for college visits

  1. Anonymous says:

    My main piece of advice is that every child is different – and they all need different guidance.

    My secondary piece of advice is to make sure you meet with some faculty in the most probably major area, particularly when school is in session so you can observe the flow of the department. My son, for example, was very impressed when the head of the department took him on a tour of the department’s facilities and how many students said “Hi Dr Yyyyyy” while walking by. And even more impressed when he didn’t just say “Hi” back, but spoke back showing he was genuinely interested in his students (“good luck with Dr. Mmmmm’s test today” and/or “good luck with your tennis match tomorrow”.

    I have 2 children in college and 1 high school senior.
    “Britney” refused to go the the local, excellent state school; it was too close to home even though we told her she could live on campus. We visited one other state school 3.5 hours away and she fell in love with it and decided she was done looking. She’s now entering her 5th year there and dislikes it, but is going to stick it out. She watches her younger siblings going through several college visits and regrets that she didn’t look more.

    “Louis” visited 9 schools with us and narrowed them down to 4. He “just knew” which 5 were wrong. He made a second visit to the top 4 by himself. He really favored 2 of the 4, but also knew that the FA package might be a deciding factor. Sure enough, when the FA packages came in, 2 colleges were left. It was easy for him to chose at that point and he’s now a sophomore and loves, loves, loves his school.

    “John” has visited 8 schools with us (he’s also been to both of his siblings schools, but doesn’t want to attend either one). From those visits, he knew right away which were right (4) and which were wrong (4). He has no desire for a second visit and thinks his brother was obsessive about the whole visit thing. He plans to apply to all 4 and see how the cards fall with the FA packages.

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