Posts Tagged ‘college visit’

Can’t Afford to Make a Campus Visit? 4 Ways you Can get the Inside Scoop for Free

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

When a high school senior is debating which college is the best for him or her, it’s highly important that he or she physically goes to visit his or her college-of-choice before making any commitments. After all, students need to feel comfortable knowing that the school is a “right fit” for them and that the establishment will actually be able to help them accomplish all their goals, including career and social. But visiting several different colleges can get expensive, especially after considering traveling costs, hotel accommodations and food. If your family can’t afford to travel to several different campuses right now, there are still a few (free) ways you can get a feel for what a school is like without ever having to step foot on campus. To learn how, continue reading below.

Take Virtual Tours

There are some college websites that actually offer interested students “virtual tours” of their facilities, including the campus and residence halls. You may not be able to see it in the flesh, but some of these tours are so well-executed and use such good photos that you feel as though you’re really there. You may also try doing a Google search and seeing if there are any videos about your school created by other students that may be able to give you a better inside look into campus-life.

Read Campus Newspaper Online

Another easy way to get a “feel” for what life on a certain campus will be like is to read the school’s student newspapers. Most colleges offer their student papers online for free. You may need to do a simple Google search first to discover the name of the publication however. What reading the student newspaper does is give you some insight to what’s going on campus and the city as a whole. Thus you can get a better idea of what the crime rate is like as well as what kind of events are thrown at your school. You can also get a better idea of what your peers will be like and learn a few of their accomplishments.

Call Alumni Centers

If you want to get a first –hand, unrehearsed account of what life is like at your college but don’t have any friends who have attended the school, then your next best bet is to call the school’s alumni center. Someone should be able to put you in contact with a former college student who will be able to answer all of your questions about the school so that you can make a more formal decision if whether that particular school sounds like someplace you’d like to be for the next four years.

Scour Open Courseware

Last but not least, you want to see if your school-of-choice offers open courseware. Open courseware is free online classes that are opened for the public. While you won’t need to take these courses, sometimes it can be beneficial to take a peek to see what’s to come. Or in other words, you can see what might be expected of you and get a better idea if the academic department is up to par with your standards. On that note, you’ll also want to do some research on your potential department’s faculty team—are there any notable professors who have done groundbreaking research? Are there any notable graduates from the department that went on to accomplish great feats? All of this should be considered before committing to a school.


This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes for online universities blog.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

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Juniors, Here Is A List of What To Expect When You Are Expecting to Go To College

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Most college admission officers will tell you, from the spring semester of a student’s junior year through the fall semester of that student’s senior year, they should be heading full tilt towards college.  What does that mean?  It means this is the time for students to get serious about the college selection process.  Here is a timeline, to help you know what to expect when you are expecting to go to college.


If possible, start visiting colleges.  In order to do that, you need to speak with your guidance counselor or college adviser and craft an initial list of schools.  Possibly take the ACT for the first time, if you haven’t yet.  Register for the March SAT.  Prepare for both tests.


Most high schools begin their course selection for senior year.  Remember to take a challenging curriculum.  Register for the April ACT.  Continue studying for both tests.  College Visits!  If you want to play sports in college, start contacting coaches.


Register for the May SAT or SAT II’s.  You will need to take the SAT II Subject Tests if you are applying to some colleges.  If you are taking an AP test that correlates with an SAT II test, then I recommend you take the SAT II in May, as the May test date is right in the middle of AP Exams, and all the content will be fresh in your head.  If you have registered for it, take the ACT test.  Continue your college visits and start to narrow down your list of schools.


Take the SAT or SAT II’s, if you have registered for the test.  Register for the June SAT or SAT II, or ACT.  Study for the tests!  Get your results back from the April ACT or the May SAT.  Decide if you need to take the test again, and what you need to study.  Start studying for your final exams.  Junior year is the last full year of classes that the colleges will see.  Your grades are always the primary factor in the decision whether to admit you to college or deny you.  Start planning what you are going to do over the summer.  If you think might want to have one of your current teachers write you a letter of recommendation, ask now, so he or she can write the letter over the Summer.


Take your high school exams, if you haven’t yet.  Take the SAT or SAT II, or the ACT.  Most colleges are out of session now, so visits might not be as effective as when classes are in session.  But, it is better to visit in the Summer than to never visit at all.  Review your test results and plan which tests you need to retake in the Fall and how you are going to prepare.  Contact college coaches again to let them know which camps, tournaments, etcetera you will be attending over the Summer.


Have a little fun!  OK, now back to work.  Review your of schools and start narrowing it down to the final schools to which you are going to apply.  Start writing your personal statement or college essay.  Work a summer job, go to a summer program, or perform some community service.  Make certain to stay active.


The Common Application becomes available.  Start an account online, and start filling out your application.  Work on your college essay!  The best writing takes abundant rewriting, so be sure to give yourself enough time to write a good essay.  Get a list together of all school requirements for the schools to which you are applying (how many teacher recommendations, extra essays, interviews, et cetera).  Touch base with any teachers you have asked to write a letter of recommendation for you.  You can now provide them with the Common Application’s Teacher Evaluation form.  Visit colleges.  Interview for college.  Decide if and where you will apply Early Decision and or Early Action.  Study for standardized tests.  Register for September ACT.


Keep up your grades.  Put finishing touches on applications.  Continue college interviews.  Request teacher recommendations.  Finalize your college list.  Review the list to make sure you have at least one admission “safe” school and one financial “safe” school.  If you do not have a financial “safety”, use to find one.  Take ACT again if necessary. Register for October SAT, if necessary.  Study for standardized tests.


Take SAT and ACT if necessary.  Request transcripts from your guidance office.  Finalize and submit applications for your Early Action and Early Decision schools.  Continue visits and interviews.  Send thank you notes to anyone you had interviewed with previously.  Make certain you have requested your letters of recommendation.  Send thank you letters to teachers who have written you recommendations.  Check on financial aid deadlines to the schools to which you are applying.  Register for November SAT, if necessary.

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Avoiding the Summer Daze: Rising Seniors Use Your Summer Wisely

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Now that the school year is wrapping up (or has already been wrapped up), it is easy to just kick back, relax, and allow half the summer to go by without doing anything to get your self ready for college.  The fall of senior year can be a very stressful time, so I recommend you use the summer to get a jump on your college applications.  Here is a list of things that you need to get done this summer.

  • Finalize Your College List
    —Narrow list down to 8 to 10 schools
    —Revisit your original criteria, has anything changed?
    —Check application requirements at your list of schools
    —Have you met testing requirements?
    —Do you have teachers lined up for letters of recommendation?
    —When are the deadlines?
  • Visit Colleges Again
    —This will help you narrow down the list and come up with your own ranking of the schools
    —Demonstrated interest is becoming more important in the admission process. This is one of the best ways to show interest.
    —If possible, interview when on campus.
  • Prepare for Fall Standardized Tests
    Take practice SAT or ACT tests
    Review performance results from your spring tests, and study up on areas where you are weak
    Consider tutoring, a course, or a book to help you improve
  • Start Your Applications!
    —The Common Application accounts open on August 1, but you can print a draft and get started earlier
    —Write a resume
    —Start your essay!
    —The Common Application has reinstated the 500 word limit on the long essay.
    Work on the Common Application short answer
    Make certain you know your school’s policy regarding transcript requests
  • Develop a List of Financial Aid Deadlines
    —When are the filing deadlines?
    —What forms are required?
    —Do you have a financial safety school?

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Juniors, Don’t Wait Till Senior Year for the College Onslaught

Monday, February 14th, 2011

It is hard to believe, but we are already in the middle of February.  Most college admission officers will tell juniors that from now on they should be completely focused on college.  But, what does that mean?  First, you need to prepare for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and SAT II if required by target colleges).  Ideally you would have all standardized tests completed by the end of junior year, so you can devote the summer to drafting your essays and completing applications. 

Second, continue to compile a transcript with rigorous courses and participate in meaningful activities.  The most important piece of the college admission puzzle is your transcript.  So, keep getting good grades and make sure to choose your classes wisely for next year.  Colleges do not want to see you taking it easy in your senior year.  In fact, a recent study corroborated what guidance counselors have been telling students for years: taking harder classes improves your chances of getting in more than improving your grades or your SAT/ACT scores. 

Third, visit target colleges to create “demonstrated interest” and learn about schools.  This is invaluable.  You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first, so you shouldn’t attend a college without thoroughly evaluating it.  In additon to visiting the campus to show demonstrated interest, you can also find local college fairs that the colleges youa re interested in will be attending.  The NACAC college fairs are great, as you get a large number of colleges in one place, and typically they are attended by members of the college’s admission staff and not just local alumni recruiters.

Finally, as we near the end of the year start to approach teachers who know you best to request letters of recommendation. If they seem excited, get contact information so you can send the recommendation forms when they become available in July.

Buckle up, you are in for a wild ride.  But, if you take the time to plan carefully, you will have a number of great options and it will all be worth it in the end.

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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The college fair has always had its share of flaws. It’s loud; it’s crowded; the booths run out of brochures; all of the presentations happen at the same time; only local universities attend; the most popular colleges leave too early; it’s too far away from home. However, the next generation of college fair has arrived. At, students have convenient, online access to virtual college fairs that include over 200 colleges and universities from across the world.

Virtual fairs are usually held once every few months, and each lasts about two days. They feature live Q&A sessions with admissions representatives, digital college brochures, keynote presentations on topics ranging from financial aid to standardized testing, and many other interactive events. Additionally, the website frequently hosts regional fairs, such as the upcoming “Texas Day,” and presentations by individual colleges. Unlike the videos on other college admissions websites, most of’s presentations utilize a videoconference-type format that allows viewers to interact directly with the presenters. The website also keeps a temporary archive of all of its events for students who are unable to view them live. Access to both live presentations and archives is free, and the site has minimal technical requirements (the interface is an Adobe Flash application that can operate on almost any web browser). The registration process also allows students to opt-into receiving news and scholarship offers from College Week Live’s partner college admission websites.

With more than 25,000 students attending its last virtual fair, is a fast-growing source of college admissions information. It is a convenient way for prospective students to either discover new colleges or narrow their existing list of schools before making campus visits.

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Preparing for the College Visit

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Undoubtedly, the campus visit is the most important step in choosing a college. Regardless of what appears in a university’s website and brochures, the visit is certain to give prospective students a much more realistic image of campus life; trust me, even colleges in up-state North Dakota tend to represent their campuses with pictures of students studying outdoors during a warm summer day. Aside from this, college visits also increase a student’s chance of being admitted. Most schools track the number of times a prospective student has contacted the institution; thus, students who visit the school’s campus tend to appear more serious applicants than those who make no contact with the university. That’s not to say that it will work miracles. But in a competitive applicant class, a previous campus visit could tip the scale in your favor.

In planning your visit, the first thing you should consider is the time frame. Although it’s tempting to visit colleges during the summer, you should try to schedule visits during the academic year. A majority of your college experience depends on your fellow students. Thus, you want to see a college when those students are actually on campus. Also, you should avoid visiting several different colleges in a short amount of time; after awhile they all blend together.

Take note of the different options that a school offers for campus visits. All colleges offer guided tours of the campus. A student usually leads the tour, reciting a scripted account of campus life but perhaps speaking candidly at times. Often, a Q&A session with an admissions officer will follow. Most colleges offer tours nearly year-round Monday through Saturday. Additionally, many schools offer half-day and open house programs. These events usually include a tour, an information session, a meal in the student dining hall, and faculty or student panels. Some schools also offer overnight programs, in which a prospective student stays with a current student, sits-in on classes, eats at campus dining halls, and attends student events. Most universities only conduct open houses and overnight visits at certain times, so be sure to schedule these well in advance. Of course, prospective students also have the option of taking an unofficial visit, in which he or she walks through campus without a guide. It is best to mix both official and unofficial visitation. Attend official tours and Q&A sessions so that your visit is included in your admissions file; however, don’t let info sessions form your entire opinion. Be sure to walk around campus, taking note of activities and talking to current students about their college experience. Pick up a newspaper and flip through it. Look at flyers and the dates of campus events – if most parties occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays, there must be a reason, and it could affect your college experience. It is particularly important to have a meal in the college dining hall if possible; it allows you to get a feel for the campus’s social atmosphere. Observe how students act toward each other, whether everyone is studying (an inevitability during mid-terms and finals) or talking, and what they talk about. Almost every student will be happy to speak with you for a few minutes about campus life and their decision to attend that college.

To make the most of your visit, be sure to plan ahead. First, think deeply and decide what about a college matters most to you. Don’t find yourself in the middle of a tour thinking, “this college has a great Greek life… maybe I’ll like to party.” Next, be sure to take notes about each college you see. You don’t need to be “that kid” who transcribes the entire Q&A session, but you should take a few notes about the campus immediately after your visit. Note things that are important to you, these could include: the dorms (their condition and how many people share a bedroom and bathroom), how safe you feel on campus (whether there are blue phones or other safety mechanisms, whether parts of campus seem dangerous at night, and whether student transit runs during the night), how stressed other students seem, whether they share your interests, whether the college has mainly small classrooms or large lecture halls, whether the library has a large selection of books on hand or depends on an interlibrary loan system, whether or not undergraduate research opportunities are available on campus, the condition of campus athletic facilities, how far shopping outlets and grocery stores are from campus (you likely don’t want to live out of your suitcase for four years). Also, take down the name of your tour guide and the admissions officer with whom you spoke and send a follow-up email or thank you note. If the college’s application or interviewer asks about your previous contact with the college, use some of these names when recounting your visit; this adds authenticity to your account and makes you seem like a more serious applicant. For students with a laptop or smart phone, it is a good idea to make a spreadsheet that includes the college’s name, its contact information, the date of your visit, notes about the tour, information session, and other meetings, the names of the officials whom you have met, and notes about the campus. This allows you to better distinguish between colleges; without it, they all begin to blend together.

The primary objective of college admissions is not to find the “best college” but to find the best college for you. The visit is a pivotal step in achieving this, and a well-planned visit will help you with both picking the right college and being accepted.

Additional Resources:

Our Video on the College Visit

College Tracker Worksheet

Google Docs – (for your online spreadsheet)

Online Degree Programs

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9 Things You Need To Know About College Planning: Lesson #1

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

In this video James Maroney, founder of First Choice College Placement and, talks about college as a valuable lesson in the decision making process.  He covers the factors students should use to help choose a school as well as the sources they should use to evaluate the colleges.

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