Friday, July 5, 2013

College Visits (Part 1): Before the Visit

 How do you arrange a college visit? 

I'm sure this differs for every child and every family.  Some students will conquer the entire process by themselves.  Others do virtually nothing;  and some are a combination of the parent and child working together.

My son is considering playing soccer in college and enrolling in ROTC.  He also wants to attend a college where he can mountain bike in the area.  After narrowing down colleges that met the above the criteria plus a few other criteria, we looked at what majors the schools offer.

I think many people start with looking for colleges that have the major the student is interested in pursuing.  My son isn't sure what he wants to major in, so the schools had to have numerous majors to choose from or, at least, majors that he would potentially like.

Here  are some website I like to help find colleges:

College sports add a whole additional dimension to the application process.  (Read that:  A lot of work!)  Each college with sports teams is a member of an athletic association.  The National Collegiate  Athletic Association (NCAA) is perhaps the best known.  There are other Collegiate Sports Organizations other than NCAA;  ie:  National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes and National Christian College Athletic Association.

The NCAA is very helpful and friendly if you call with questions.  Ask for the homeschool representative if you homeschool.  If you homeschool, you will have much more to do for the application process than you would if your child attended public school.  Not insurmountable, but more.  You will have to provide information about each of the classes your child took/takes in high school.  The public school has a list of courses they offer and they send them to NCAA for their students;  homeschoolers have to submit their own.   The NCAA is familiar with many of the curriculum providers so they will have few, or no, questions about the ones they "like."  For example, they know Tapestry of Grace and will readily approve courses from them. 

Register with the NCAA and other athletic associations.  If your child wants to play Division I sports I recommend that you or your child starts the registration process with NCAA during the sophomore year as that's when coaches will start looking at them;  of course the coaches may even scout them earlier than that.  For Division II, register sometime in their junior year.  NCAA registration site. 

Find out what athletic association the colleges your child is interested in belong to and then have your child register with those associations.

Each college has a link for prospective athletes.  Have your child complete this form for any school he/she is interested in attending.  Students need to be proactive in getting recruited.  Do not wait for coaches to recruit.  This is especially true for homeschooled students who don't play on a local high school team where the coach may help the student get recruited. 

 Arranging the visit. 

1. Admissions/Financial Aid Office
  •  Admissions Counselor
 This is the part of the process that I worked on while my son concentrated on the subsequent two:  coaches and ROTC.  After determining what colleges we planned to visit and when we were going, I contacted the Admissions office either by phone or by email and requested a tour and a meeting with Admissions and Financial Aid.  Some admissions counselors also scheduled meetings with ROTC- you can ask them to do that.  They will also schedule meetings with professors and arrange for the prospective student to sit in on classes in his/her intended major.

If you are driving around  looking at colleges there is no problem calling the counselor the day before, or even the day of your visit, and telling them you are coming.  They will normally go out of their way to accommodate you.  Of course, you can even just show up at the school and take a tour.  A tour is best way to find out about the school.
 If you will be at the school at lunch time, let Admissions know and ask if you can have lunch in the cafeteria.  If possible don't miss this chance to check out the food.  Your child will potentially eat two to three meals a day on campus for four years (or more).  Often colleges will give you free tickets to the cafeteria.

  • Campus Tour.  You can schedule a campus tour over the phone, via email, or some colleges have an online campus tour registration link.

  • Financial Aid
Here is a pearl...One financial aid counselor told me that some private schools will lower the cost of tuition for families who have children in private school, AKA:  homeschool. 
When you arrange your visit with Admissions, ask to meet with a Financial Aid representative.  You may here a similar spiel from each of them, but they are the ones who know about scholarships from their school, deadlines and institutional policies like the one I mentioned above. 
 If you have GI Bill benefits ask to speak with the Veterans Affairs Representative (or a person with a similar title) during your visit.  I found the Financial Aid office is not very familiar with this program, but the Veterans Affairs Rep for the school should be extremely knowledgeable about it.  Also find out if the school is a "Yellow Ribbon"  school.  If they are they will pay the difference for the actual tuition and the amount the GI Bill pays.  It's a great deal. 

2.  Coaches 
After completing the Prospective Athlete form on the school website my son emailed the coach to let him know he was interested in playing on that team.  Once we knew the date we planned to visit the school my son asked to meet with coach during our visit.  The NCAA has very specific rules about coaches and athletes communicating with each other- learn the rules.  We had already looked at the team roster and their wins and losses for the past few years.  We knew who was graduating and what positions the coach would need to fill.  Sending the coach video clips is a standard recruiting tool.  So, charge up your video cameras and, use a tripod.

Many colleges offer summer camps for the purpose of recruiting.  Consider sending your child to one of those.  My son went to one, had a great time... and got a really cool t-shirt.  He was able to check out the college a little during that time too.  (I got the bill.)

Here's a website with more details on what parents should do during the meeting with a college coach during a campus visit. Parent's role during a campus visit.

 3.  ROTC
Some Admissions offices have a great working relationship with the local ROTC units.  When you call/email Admissions to arrange your visit you can ask them to set up an appointment with any of the ROTC units on campus.  I prefer to make my own appointments with the ROTC department.  But that's just me...I  was commissioned through ROTC and worked in an ROTC job while on active duty so I'm familiar with the program.

If you have a friend or a family member who has a child one year ahead of your child, pick their brain about the college process

My next post will be about 
"What to do/not to do during your college visit." 

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