My son is starting his college search. We plan to visit schools, but only have a week to visit several campuses. Problem is, his short list isn’t so short, and the schools are located all over the country — he’s applying to Macalester College in Minnesota and Chapman University in California. What can we do to make the most of our week, and the most of our money?
— Cross-Country Dad
Dear Cross-Country Dad,
The best thing that you and your son can do to make the most of your week looking at colleges is research. Before you book your flight and hotel, brush up on the facts and figures of each college. Ask your son what he likes about each school that he has put on his “short” list. You may find that many schools are on that list because they share some of the same characteristics. If he wants to go to a small liberal-arts school with a good art program, you may find that both Skidmore and Vassar are on the list. Instead of visiting all schools within one type, why not only visit one or two distinct ones? Compare and contrast schools by their size, tuition, acceptance rate, and campus-life. And don’t forget to read the college student reviews-they’ll tell your son more about campus life and the student body than a dozen brochures. Find colleges that strike your son as unique and different. That way, you won’t be wasting your time looking at the same old-same old.
Rather than visit all of his potential schools now, why not wait to see where he gets in? If he knows he wants to go to Macalester and Chapman, maybe it is better to hold off on visiting them until he has an acceptance letter. Use this exploratory time to look at schools he’s not so sure about-maybe he has heard great things about Northwestern, but he isn’t sure he’d like being at a school so big. If you’re flying all over the country, make sure that you’re doing so to learn something new, and not just reiterating what your son already knows. Also, for your own sake, make sure at least one of the schools on your trip is a “safety school” — if he winds up not getting into his top choice, he’ll be happier knowing that his safety isn’t a total dud.
For more tips, get ready with CampusCompare’s campus visit checklist at http://www.campuscompare.com/college-resources/admissions/get-ready-for -campus-visits/.
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