In the long stressful process of applying to colleges, one of the fun lights at the end of the tunnel is getting to visit the colleges you’ve been accepted to. This is a time when you and your child together can preview what life might be like for the next four years. While college tours typically cover things like dorm food and how late the library is open, there are some less popular but equally important topics to consider when visiting schools.
One thing you should ask your tour guides and host students about is transportation, both in the town where the college is located and also in the region of the country where your child will be living. Ask currents students how often they get to travel home and how easy or challenging it is to get there. Is there a major airport in that city where your son or daughter can get direct flights home for breaks and holidays? Are there popular train and bus routes between the college town and the city where you live? The hassle of arranging transportation can be a big reason that students travel away from campus less often. If you know this ahead of time, you can factor in things like needing a car to use at school when making the decision of which college to attend.
Another question you can ask the students on campus when you visit is what kinds of community groups are active on campus. In the first year of college, lots of students can use the support of cultural, religious, and other groups they share key interests with. These groups host dinners, cultural events, religious services, and other outings that can help new students feel more at home and make friends in an intimidating environment.
If you ask around, you may even be able to attend a meeting or dinner while you’re visiting. Before your visit, you can look at a college’s website or contact their Dean of Students office to inquire about the various student groups on campus. If your daughter is interested in volleyball, maybe there’s an intramural volleyball game you can attend during your visit. If your son likes dance, there may be a performance of the campus breakdance club during your visit. Lots of people make friends on their initial campus visit that they remain close to throughout their time in college. Don’t pass up this prime opportunity to make connections.
Long-Term Financial Aid
Everyone who applies to college thinks about money. But did you know that the cost of attending a university can change significantly while you’re enrolled? Annual tuition raises are standard at many schools. No one knows more about this than the students who are currently attending those schools. So when you get the chance to talk to current students, ask them about the cost of attending and how it has changed while they’ve been there. Has the cost of health insurance gone up every year? Are student activity fees out of control? What happens when a family has trouble meeting rising tuition costs? The current students at a university will have experience tackling these issues, and many of them will be happy to talk candidly with you about them. They may even be able to refer you to the most helpful college administrators to talk to.
Ultimately, the college visit is an excellent time to assess your options and determine where you and your child will be comfortable investing for the next four years. By asking important questions and having sober conversations, you can be sure to make an informed decision that will pay off in the experience of a lifetime.