By Janet Kalbaugh, Keyser High School Guidance Counselor


††††††††††† Early in a studentís high school career, college view books with flattering descriptions and beautiful pictures begin to arrive at the studentís home.In addition, brochures from college fairs, virtual tours on web sites, and promotional videos are available to assist students in the post-secondary decision making process.These tools assist students and parents in narrowing choices of institutions, but most important in reaching the final selection of a school is visiting the campus.

††††††††††† In order to make the most of the visit, it is important to do some advance planning.If possible, schedule to visit the campus when classes are in full session. But, if that is not possible, visiting in the summer is better than not visiting at all.Prior to the visit, call the admissions office and set up a time for a guided tour, a class visit, and an appointment with an advisor in the studentís major.Parents may also wish to schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor. Many schools schedule open houses or orientations throughout the year for prospective students.Generally, faculty and student presentations are a part of these sessions.

††††††††††† Prepare for the visit by learning as much as possible about the school.High school counselors are pleased to check out college catalogs or guides for families to use, and the institutionís web site is also an excellent source.

††††††††††† Upon arrival, take a tour, noting the size of the campus, the cleanliness, the atmosphere, and the behavior of students.Attend any group sessions that are scheduled for parents or students.During the tour or sessions, students and parents will have an opportunity to ask questions that have not been addressed in the viewbook or other resources.Many parents ask questions on the safety of the campus, whether professors or teaching assistants will be teaching classes or labs, and the ability to schedule courses in order to finish the program in the usual number of semesters.

††††††††††† If the student has any special interests, such as band, athletics, or ROTC, inquire about these programs or activities.If the student needs special services for learning disabilities or physical handicaps, inquire about programs or facilities that meet these needs.

††††††††††† After the formal tour or session, talking with the advisor in the studentís major helps to clarify the precise requirements for admission to the major and the opportunities for jobs upon completion of the degree.It is also a good time to ask the average GPA and test scores of students in this major so that you can determine how the student compares academically. During this time, it is important to check out the labs, computers, and other facilities for the major.

††††††††††† If visiting a residence hall has not been included in the formal tour, try to visit at least one.Since most colleges require freshmen to live in a residence hall, ideally the student would have an opportunity to see all those available so he or she can rank order preferences when asked to do so.Often students have the option of all-male, all-female, or coed. Find out how roommates are assigned and whether you can indicate preferences for similar major or similar study and life habits.Dining halls and their proximity to the dorm are also an important consideration.

††††††††††† After the formal tour or meetings, allowing the student to explore on his or her own gives an opportunity to talk to enrolled students without feeling inhibited.The student union is a good location for interaction on what present students think of their schoolówhat they like or dislike and what they do on weekends or during free time.

††††††††††† Parents who are interested in financial assistance and have arranged to see a financial aid counselor may wish to take with them an unofficial copy of the studentís transcript, including admissions test scores, and a copy of the most recent tax forms.

††††††††††† It is advisable not to wait till the senior year to start making campus visits. Counselors encourage students to begin submitting applications by early fall, so a reasonable approach is to begin visiting by the sophomore or junior year.Visiting a campus while on vacation or visiting any local college is a good first step, as this experience will give the student a basis for comparison.For students who plan to begin at a local college and then transfer to another institution, deciding the prospective transfer school allows for careful planning of courses.


Additional Resources:


All "College Tips" columns are available at http://www.newstribune.info


Checklist at http://www.makingitcount.com/roadtocollege/college/campus_visit_checklist.pdf


College Confidential at http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/visits.htm

Mentor http://www.wvmentor.org


Making it Count at http://www.makingitcount.com/


Wired Scholar http://www.wiredscholar.com/


The Princeton Review at http://www.princetonreview.com/


American Education Services http://www.aesSuccess.org (1-304-345-7211; or toll free: 1-800-437-3692)


Mineral County Technical Center at http://mctc.mine.tec.wv.us/college.htm

Eastern Community and
Technical College at http://www.eastern.wvnet.edu (304-434-8000; or toll free: 1-877-982-2322)

Potomac State College of West Virginia University at http://www.potomacstatecollege.edu or (304-788-6820 or toll free:

Your high school guidance counselor