Hit the Road for a Spring Break College Tour
With spring break quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to make plans for a spring break college tour. Whether you are a current junior looking to explore your college options or a high school senior on the verge of graduation, this is an opportunity to obtain a first-hand experience of college life. May 1st, 2015 is National Enrollment Deposit Day for seniors and this tour can be instrumental in narrowing your choices and arriving at a final decision of where to enroll in school. You can get an invaluable feel for your potential of fitting in and feeling comfortable at what may be your home for the next four years. This part of the college admissions process is just as important as your research and helps to form a complete picture of a university.
Planning ahead for this trip will not only save you money, but it will help you get the most out of campus tours. Airfares can be expensive and booking ahead is sure to get you a better price. Making reservations well in advance also gives you more time to search for deals on hotels and rental cars. Remember, spring break is a busy travel time and flights and hotel rooms can sell out quickly.
Here are some important factors to consider when planning your college tour:
Attending College Tours Shows Demonstrated Interest
Many colleges track demonstrated interest as one aspect in the college decision process. Along with attending high school information sessions, stopping by their booth at local college fairs, and initiating contact through email and phone, visiting a college campus shows interest and a desire to learn more about a school. It is also a chance to attend an information session conducted by an admissions officer and usually a student led tour. Make sure to get the representative’s card and student’s email address so that you can send thank you notes.
Do Your Research Ahead of Time
Do your college research before embarking on this journey. Get to know the schools, their programs and unique qualities. Read guidebooks, view the school website and check out Niche.com (formerly known as College Prowler) and College Navigator http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ for opinions and factual data. Write down and bring any additional questions with you to the college tour.
When You Go Matters
It is common for colleges to have a different spring break than your high school. The best time to go is when classes are in session and students are on campus. Visiting a barren campus will not lend much insight into daily student life, nor will you have the possibility of observing a class. Also, going during your high school spring break will prevent you from having to miss classes. Remember, it is important to keep your senior grades up and not let senioritis take over. Aside from touring the campus, you will have a chance to experience a new climate if you are traveling to another area of the country. How do you feel about humidity if you are traveling to the south or cold weather if you are traveling to the Midwest?
Do Not Try To Pack in Too Much in a Short Period of Time
Although it is tempting to try to get your money’s worth by visiting more colleges, make sure to allow for a half day per visit. Allocate time to attend both the tour and information session. Make sure to eat in the dining facility and perhaps attend a class. Leave time to approach random students on campus and initiate conversations. You may well be enlightened by the unscripted responses and candid answers.
What to Bring Along
Aside from bringing along an open mind, don’t forget to bring a notebook and pen, a camera and your thoughtful questions. Make sure to record your impressions and take pictures as memories can quickly fade. Consider creating a spread sheet to aid in comparing colleges.
Ways to Get Additional Insights
If you know students that attend a college that you are visiting, you may want to ask them ahead of time if it is possible for you to spend a night in their dorm room. Not only will this give you additional knowledge into residential college life, but it will save you money in hotel costs. Also, don’t forget to pay a visit to the surrounding college town to get a feel for the area. Is it walking distance from campus or is their bus service to the town? Are there many cultural offerings or food options? Make sure to pick up a copy of the school newspaper. If you have particular interests, check out those areas on campus that apply. If you are a fitness fan, visit the gym. If you love plays and music, stop by their theatre.
Don’t Get Left Out
Most colleges require a reservation for their college information session and tour. During busy times such as spring break, these can fill up quickly. Try to schedule these appointments at least a few weeks ahead of time.
Options for Those That Cannot Go
If visiting campuses are unfeasible due to time and financial limitations, do not despair. Most colleges have virtual tours available through their websites. You can also request to speak with alumni through the admissions office. Make sure to visit with college representatives when they visit high schools in your local area. As an independent college consultant, I also recommend following schools of interest on Twitter and Facebook.
Setting out on a college tour presents an opportunity to acquire a first-hand look at colleges, gather knowledge, explore new cities and spend time with travel companions. It will hopefully enable you to make better educated decisions and perhaps re-examine your choices. Pam Ohriner, lead college advisor at Helping Hand College Guidance of Los Angeles, offers comprehensive college counseling and expertise in all areas of the college planning process. For college admissions help, be sure to contact Pam Ohriner for guidance.