My students and I work through identifying their personal criteria to help them decide on the right schools for them. While location and “vibe” of the school are often what first draw a student in, the real fit and match is found over time. It is important that students learn about a college’s academic programs, research and interning opportunities, and if professors and advisors are supported and encouraged to mentor their students.
By breaking down the college research into smaller chunks, students can more easily identify what details to focus on and when. Each phase has a distinct financial fit, or “FinFit,” element.
Phase 1 – Oh the possibilities!
Five Step Process to survey schools of interest; refine preferences and fit factors
FinFit: Compare college prices; understand colleges’ discounting practices; try out net price calculators
Phase 2 – Inquire within
Campus visits, information sessions, student panels, faculty presentations; focus on personal SAFE* fit criteria when doing research (SAFE = Social/Size, Academic, Financial Extracurricular); ask clarifying questions
FinFit: Learn about % need met, merit scholarships, WUE/out of state residency
Phase 3 – Questions & Connections
College rep visits, informational interviews, talking to current students, contacting college admissions representatives directly with specific questions that remain
FinFit: Contact financial aid office for a pre-read where possible; submit FAFSA early October; balance final apply list
Post-COVID: The Hybrid Campus Visitation Model
New virtual engagement opportunities have expanded access and increased opportunities for students and families to learn about different colleges and universities. Although nothing can replace the experience of a campus tour and being in person to experience different college campuses, students and families have many possibilities that range from never leaving home to doing the full, in-person, “pre-COVID” style campus visit.
Most colleges are again offering in person, on campus tours; the in-person admissions information sessions are either offered as part of the visit or as an add-on virtual option. This hybrid model offers greater flexibility in how to do campus visitations and expands the possibilities for getting to know different college campuses and doing college research.
Enjoy the flexibility and access offered with the hybrid model!
- Plan your visit (ideally when students are on campus, but not always possible when taking advantage of summer schedules). Find the information you need on the admissions webpage of your college of interest.
- The best option is to register for an official admissions office visit by booking through a school’s online calendar. Alternatively, if a tour is not available when you need it, organize your own self-guided tour using a campus map and virtual walking guide. Always let admissions know you were on campus by filling out an information request online or going in person to the admissions center, when possible. (Visiting campus is a strong form of demonstrating interest which shows colleges you are interested; same is true for virtual offerings.)
- Sign-up for an online information session, student panel or other virtual opportunity either shortly before or shortly after your in person campus visit — ideally you will do the admissions information session and campus visit in the same week to mimic a more immersive in-person visit.
I’ll leave you with a copy of two slides from a presentation at the 2021 Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) conference that suggest what’s important to keep in mind when visiting schools and attending information sessions. The findings of the Gallup-Purdue Index suggest the kinds of questions we can be asking the college admissions folks, staff, and professors we meet.