Visiting colleges is an important step in determining where your child will apply. It shows colleges that you are interested in coming to their school. With college visits, you'll want to have prepared some questions in advance that will give you information you can't find online or in their view-books. Ask open-ended questions to, hopefully, engage in meaningful conversation.
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Is your child a high school Junior? It's time for college visits!
Here's the problem. You can google "what questions to ask on a college visit" and get hundreds of good questions. The only problem is that school administrators and professors have heard these questions a thousand times and asking them will in no way distinguish you from any of the thousands of others visiting the campus. You don't want someone else's boring ordinary, run of the mill questions. Asking "What are the top issues at your school?" may be boring, but you can ask the same question in your own unique way that could actually result in a conversation.
One idea is to do a little snooping around online first, and then develop questions. Let me give an example. If you were visiting the University of Washington, prior to your first college visit, you might google: "bad things about the University of Washington". As you look over the results you might think of a question like this: "I know that the University of Washington is a research focused school. How does the school ensure that undergraduates, and not just grad students, get a chance to do research?" Or you could decide it was important to ask, "How many of my freshman year classes in (insert your intended major here) would you expect to be taught by TAs?" Try to ask questions that will engage people in dialog and show you value their opinions. When you are talking with people during college visits, you want them to get to know you. Open questions with plenty of dialog can help them get to know you better. You can show that you trust their opinion by asking them important questions about your future. Asking open ended questions can demonstrate that you can listen, as well as talk. Do you struggle with coming up with questions?
For example, you might discuss your college major. "I'm thinking about this major but I don't really like one aspect" or "I really love this major, do you think it is a good fit, and how do you know?" Asking questions during college visits is not always about yes or no questions such as, "Do you offer a biology major?" or questions that can be answered with a one sentence reply such as "Is Chapel required for all students?" Part of asking questions is allowing the college to get to know you and who you are as a person. They will get to know you and be more likely to remember you, particularly if you ask questions that show you value their opinion.
You might also want to discuss extra-curricular on-campus activities. "I've had so much fun with my high school activities and I'm wondering what activities you think I might enjoy on campus." This kind of question will answer the usually unspoken question, "What about socialization?" By openly discussing your high school activities and saying how much you enjoy them, it demonstrates great social skills. More importantly perhaps, colleges value students that will become active on campus. They want students who will participate in more than just academics. By showing that you are eager to join on-campus groups, you are showing that you will be a valuable asset to the college for the long run. You want them to know you won't just be hiding in the library studying, and will bring more to campus than just your brain.
Another idea is to think about general categories of questions that you might need to ask. That way, it's phrased the way you would ask it in real life, not using words from someone else. When you do that, try to ask open-ended questions, that don't have a yes or no answer. Here are some general issues you may want to discuss when you visit.
What about an early admission option?
How many are usually waitlisted?
Need-blind or need-aware? (they either do or don't consider finances when you apply)
Collaborative or competitive?
Mostly taught by professors or teaching assistants?
Average class size of freshman classes in my major?
What percent get financial aid?
What kind of scholarships?
How to apply for scholarships?
Can scholarships be combined or stacked?
Is aid mostly loans or grants?
Do financial aid packages change every year?
Ask the tour guide and other students you meet about what they like or don't like.
Dorm or living arrangement options
Dorms too crowded or noisy or quiet or boring?
What to do on weekends
Do you like it here?
Are living arrangements within walking distance of campus? Or will I need a bike or car?
How hard is it to get good grades?
Wholesome living options
Is dorm availability guaranteed?
Kids stay on campus on weekends?
Sorority or fraternity options?
How do they handle food allergies or intolerance?
Are there single-sex dorms? Floors? bathrooms? Dorm rooms?
Christian groups on campus?
Success After College
How is the academic advising?
Career center placement or help available?
Job internship available or required?
Pre-law or pre-med success?
After your visit, think about what you learned, and ask yourself a few questions.
Did I have fun?
Did I meet nice people?
Were people smiling?
Did you feel safe?
Was it the right size?
Were classes interesting?
Did you feel at home?
Was staff friendly or fussy?
Everyone likes the sound of their own voice, even college admission advisers. Ask questions, but also ask them what they think, and show you value their opinion. Remember, it's mostly about being yourself, vulnerable and genuine. Look them in the eye, and be interested in them as a person.
You can find out more about college visits in my blog post, Ask Questions During College Visits. Also, remember that making college visits isn't the only thing you should be doing in Junior year of high school. Find out more about what makes Junior year succesful in my Coffee Break Book, Junior Year is the Key to Homeschool Success.
I hope these ideas help to spur you on in your determining whether or not a campus is right for you. Are there ideas / questions that you would add?