Plenty of information is available for someone looking to enter college.
And while you can search online or seek advice, students should not ignore firsthand experience. That’s where a college visit enters the picture.
According to Susan Dileno, vice president for enrollment management at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, and Stephanie Levenson, vice president for enrollment management at John Carroll University in University Heights, college visits can make all the difference.
“The first thing they need to do is reflect on what is important to them, what they are looking for and the type of environment they want to be in,” Dileno said. “It’s like ‘know thyself first,’ so think about location, size and their academic and co-curricular interests like specialized clubs. And the hard conversation with their family when it comes to finances and what the options are. Starting there as a first step is good.”
Dileno said having a clear idea is the first step to going to a college open house.
“That is an opportunity for students to experience the campus environment and understand the school itself,” she explained. “There are things that (students) can begin to assess at an event like that, which can be overwhelming for some. But, it does give them a little idea of what those expectations are and to narrow down their list. This helps them decide if they want to come back for a more in-depth visit.”
Though priorities and interests can vary from student to student, Levenson said students should keep in mind open houses have structured programming.
“There are some opportunities for individualization, but this is, in the school’s mind, the moment to get those big points across,” she said. “The students can be open to gathering information on some really basic things like majors, extracurriculars and services like tutoring and support. Often, they can ask in the format of asking questions at Q&As or even on tours. But, if they can sit down and be a little introspective about what they want, we recommend that.”
In preparation for a visit, Levenson said students are encouraged to prepare any questions they have before their visit.
“It’s the same as a job interview,” she stated. “You always want to know a little bit before you go. Just do your homework ahead of time and that is something your guidance counselor can help you with too.”
After visiting a few schools, Dileno said students tend to have a clearer idea of what they might want out of a college. And it’s OK if it’s something they can’t put into words either, she added.
“I’ve seen students arrive on the campus and last only five minutes and that is enough for them,” she recalled. “Sometimes, it’s that gut feeling and it may not even be rational. But by and large, we hope that by schools having open houses and providing the opportunities, students can get a summary of each institution. It’s either going to be a good fit for them or not.”
If a student is feeling the pressure of college decisions, Levenson suggested taking a moment to breathe.
“Take a breath and try to find the joy in the process because it is exciting for some,” she said. “And for others, it might be making a list of pros and cons, or it might be engaging a trusted family member or teacher. Just know there is a place for everyone, and for some people, there are a lot of places that could work. All you can do is make the best decision with the information you have.”