Applying to and selecting a college is a big commitment.
Before applying, Meredith Cannon, associate director of admissions at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, and Emily Haggerty, director of admissions at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, suggested students schedule a campus visit.
But there are a few things students and their families should consider before visiting.
“The end of junior year and that summer before senior year is the prime time to begin looking at colleges,” Cannon said. “This allows time for students to revisit colleges through senior year.”
Cannon said they should consider four things: size, location, majors and cost. Size takes class size and total university size into consideration. The location would include how far the school is from home, as well as the surrounding environment. Majors include knowing what programs the school offers. And the cost is how much a degree would cost at the school, Cannon explained.
Haggerty suggested families create “wish lists.”
“There are so many options in terms of colleges and universities, it is important to have a wish list so you can narrow down schools that fit that list,” she said. “So, whether it is certain majors, programs or opportunities, distance, safety and size, all those are important so you get a rough idea of where to start. After a student visits a few schools, they can revisit the list to see how important the factors are.”
Visiting a school before applying can have benefits.
“It’s all about fit and you have to find the right fit,” Cannon stated. “You don’t have to visit a college before applying. But, for the most part, students do visit before applying so they know they want to apply and they’re not wasting their time applying. Visiting a college is like shopping – you need to try it on before you buy it. A visit is like trying it on.”
Haggerty agreed but stated the ability to visit depends on the family.
“If you have the opportunity to visit before applying, that’s great,” she said. “If you have visited, you can better craft the schools you wish to apply to and target your efforts. That way, you won’t be spreading yourself too thin applying for colleges that aren’t a good fit.”
Summer vacation is an optimal time to get visits in, the professionals said.
“It’s a great time to get the whole family involved,” Haggerty explained. “A lot of families will visit with younger siblings and even older siblings in college who can give unique perspectives. Parents can give an insight into what is best for the student. A collective visit is worth it.”
Cannon said, “You don’t have to miss school for it. The campuses are quieter, so it’s not the most ideal time to visit but it is a great opportunity to get a general idea of the campus. You can take a tour and meet with an admissions counselor.”
But students should consider that schools look different in the summer, so summer visits are more like a “taste” and not an “end-all, be-all” experience, Cannon said.
Planning college visits can be stressful for students and families alike. The professionals offered advice for anyone feeling the heat.
“Be open and honest with yourself,” Cannon suggested. “What is right for you is different than what is right for your best friend and siblings. As much value as those opinions bring, it’s your choice. The entire college search process is a lot of soul searching. So, be open to all ideas.”
Haggerty added, “Use all your resources. Admissions offices are here to help. Use us and call us. We’re here for you during the entire process, all the way until you sit in class the first day.”