Counselors and colleges urge prospective students to schedule college visits as part of college prep to help them form a college list. Although both students and parents want to find the best educational fit, there are key nonacademic factors that can drop a college off the list. They make up the top 10 reasons why families should visit colleges. Here, in Part 1 of this article are the top five reasons for parents to visit, and stay tuned for Part 2 for students.
Why visit colleges
College brochures and websites don't tell the whole story and college visits can supply eye witness insider tips. Like any good consumer research, it is wise to check out an expensive educational purchase before submitting an application to buy. Great academic and cultural programs and opportunities are a must but they don't exist in a college prep bubble. It takes an in-person visit to check out important nonacademic issues.
Top 5 reasons parents visit colleges
While students focus on what is important for them, parents can concentrate on how well the college functions as a surrogate home for the next four to six years.
1. Security Many campuses have their own security system including procedures, personnel and emergency blue light phone poles. Some offer late night escort services. Check out the crime rate on campus and in the surrounding community. Pay attention to the visitor policy and ease of strangers accessing the campus, the academic buildings, student center, athletic facilities and the residence halls. Many schools provide students with an I.D. card that acts as a dorm/room key and credit card for campus purchases such as for meals, laundry or bookstore. Learn about what happens if the card is lost/stolen.
2. Transportation Decide how the student will get around campus, the local community and home for a visit. Many colleges do not allow freshmen to keep a car on campus. For those that do, there may be a registration process, fee and assigned parking areas. Find out about driving and parking violation fines, location of gas/repair stations and cost of gas in the area. Check out the ease and expense of public and private transportation options, car pooling possibilities and college sponsored bus routes.
3. Local hotels Some colleges have hotels on campus but many do not. Learn about the cost, location and amenities of hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts in the area to use for college visits. If there is a loyalty program, sign up. Make reservations early for big draw events like special athletic and cultural events, family weekends and graduation ceremonies.
4. Health Discover if there is a health clinic on campus and what medical and mental health services it provides at what cost. Also find out the location of the nearest hospital and any medical specialist the student may need. Often, colleges offer a variety of meal plan options but may insist on a particular one for freshmen. Find out how easily, if at all, any special dietary requests are filled. Notice where most students eat. How many are in the cafeteria, food court or other campus eateries.
5. Move in Dorm rooms usually come partially furnished with the basics: bed, chest of drawers, desk and chair. It is up to the student to bring bedding, sheets and towels, additional lighting, rug, toiletries, clothing, shoes, books, supplies and personal possessions. Expect a van load of stuff that has to be transported from home to college and back again each year until graduation. Find out if there are elevators in freshmen dorms, availability of moving large carts and volunteers to help carry in all the student's stuff. Remember to bring a supply of water bottles to stay hydrated if the school doesn't hand out complimentary beverages.
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