Saturday, July 13, 2013

College Visits (Part 2): What to do during the visit

During the visit.  
What to do/not to do.

Parents.  This is mainly your child's visit.  He leads, you follow.  You can make suggestions when necessary, but your job is to be his cheerleader.  A rather-silent-cheerleader during the actual visit.  To read part one of this series, click below.

Think of the time that you are at the college as an interview.  You are interviewing them, they are interviewing you.  It works both ways, but assume they are watching you.  Either turn your cell phone off or don't bring it.

When you meet with Admissions, Financial Aid, Coaches, ROTC, etc. walk up to them,
 look them in the eye, shake their hand and introduce yourself.  
Be yourself. 

Wear  comfortable, casual, modest clothes.  For boys khaki pants or shorts, depending on the weather/time of year, and a collared shirt.  For girls nice pants or casual skirt.  Comfortable shoes for walking around the campus.

Get business cards. Ask for a business card from everyone you meet.  If they don't have one, write their name and title down and ask for their phone number and email address.  Make sure you note which school they represent. 

What to bring.  
1.  Transcript and a resume.  

The student can bring a copy of the transcript and a resume to give out. One Admissions Counselor was very impressed with the format of my son's transcript.  It was in a "normal" format so it was easy for him to read/understand (put in the "accepted" pile).  A great source for how to prepare a transcript is Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). HSLDA transcript examples. 

The resume should highlight academic achievements like Honor Society, athletic achievements like Team Captain, and extra-curricular achievements like Eagle Scout and mission trips.  The National Honor Society does not allow homeschoolers.  HSLDA has a list of Honor Societies that homeschoolers can join.    National Honor Societies.

I'm sure art and theater type students need to bring portfolios but I'm not familiar with that so if you have any helpful suggestions about that please leave them in the comment section below. 

2.  Questions.  
Below are some bullets with questions.  These are some of the questions that my son asked on visits.  Before we went on the first visit I gave him a long list of possible questions to ask each of the representatives that we would meet:  Admissions, Financial Aid, ROTC and Coaches.  I had my son put 2-3 questions for each rep on a 3x5 card.  During our meetings he pulled out the card and asked some or all of the questions.  I'm sure other students wouldn't need the cards, but it worked well for him. Prepare questions in advance.

Admissions/Financial Aid Office/Professors
Admissions Counselor.   Normally you check in at the Admissions Office.  Since we planned our trips in advance we either received a schedule via email before our visit or when we arrived at the Admissions Office.  I was overwhelmed with amazement at how welcome every Admissions Office made us feel.  Like royalty.  They put the student's name on a special parking space- loved it!

When you arrive you can ask if you can eat in one of the campus cafeterias.  Often the school will give you free lunch passes if you take the tour.  Cafeterias really differ from campus to campus so it's a good idea to check it out.
  • Are you planning to introduce any new majors in the next year or two?  This was one of the best questions.  It really created an open dialog and revealed plans that we would not have known about otherwise.
  • What does your student population look like?  It's like asking, "What type of student attends this school?" 
  • Does your school offer study abroad?
  • Do you have internship programs?  Are any of the internships paid positions?
  • At the end of your meeting it is perfectly fine for the prospective student to look the counselor in the eye and ask, "What are my chances of getting admitted to this school (and you add your particular major if you know it)?"   Then wait for the answer.

Campus Tour.

"On campus visits parents should hang back and let the student take the lead. Let him walk ahead of you into the admissions office to introduce himself and fill out the various forms. Let him ask his own questions, because teens have their own set of issues that matter to them.
On the tour, though, parents can keep a watchful eye for details that may not matter as much to the student, such as campus maintenance and clues about how the school is spending its money.
Make college visits fun. Don’t give your child the third degree after the tour, but walk around the college town or city and browse in the shops or have a relaxing lunch and maybe even take in a game or cultural event on the campus. 
Finally, don’t use the word “we” or “our” when referring to the application process; it’s a dead giveaway that you’ve become too involved!"  Source: The Washington Post

Financial Aid. I find the financial aid portion of the visit sort of tedious and often repetitive at this point.  That's probably just me.  However we met with the Financial Aid Representative at each school and it was worth it.
Ask about scholarships and grants.  
  • Do you have work study programs and other ways to reduce the cost of college?
  • Are you a Yellow Ribbon School?  If you aren't familiar with that I discussed it in Part 1 of this series. 
  • Will you waive the application fee since I came to visit your school?  Some colleges will. 

****One financial aid counselor told me that some private schools 
will lower the cost of tuition for families who have children in private school.**** 
So, they gave grants for homeschooling families.

Professors.  You can arrange in advance with Admissions to meet with faculty and to sit in on a class.  Try to arrange this as much in advance as possible so that you will be there on a day that this is available. 

 Coaches.  It was so exciting to meet with these college coaches.  My son already had emailed with them and/or spoken with them on the phone. 
  • What is your coaching philosophy?  The coach's response to this question was key.  It gave a great picture of the coach and how he likes to play. 
  • What is your schedule like for players year round? 
  • Do you have housing set aside for athletes?
  • Do team members room together?  Some schools have separate dorms for athletes. 
  • Do you have study hall hours?
  • What is an average day like for the team?  They will normally explain the training program during the season and the off-season.

 Army ROTC.  (BTW, I was commissioned through Army ROTC and spent 20 years in the Army.  One of my jobs was with the ROTC program.) 

  • What percentage of cadets get active duty?  This changes every year, but you can ask for the stats for the previous few years to get an idea.  Some cadets who want to get active duty only get a Reserve assignment.
  • How many cadets are in your program?  We visited one school that had no cadets on campus and any cadets who would attend would have to find rides to and from the campus that held the classes which was a 30 minute drive up and down a mountain. 
  • How often do you have PT (physical training)?
  • Are your classes on this campus or another campus?  This is easy to find out before you go, but sometimes the Professor of Military Science (PMS) is creative and even though the campus you are interested in is not the campus where classes are normally held, he/she can make a deal with the school to have some classes on the local campus to make it easier for the cadets.
  • What extra-curricular activities does your program have?   Ranger Challenge, etc.
  • Would I be able to lead PT?  A former  PMS told me that he would jump out of skin, out of sheer joy, if he had a prospective cadet ask that.  When my son asked ask it, I wouldn't say the PMS jumped out of his skin, but it shows that the student is interested in physical fitness and is not afraid to lead. 
  • What type of schools/camps do you send your cadets to during the summer?  This is a great question.  There are some international camps that cadets can attend and some PMSes are more proactive about sending them than others.  There are typical Army schools like Airborne, Air Assault, etc. and cadets can compete for a slot.  

Send thank you notes.  I can just feel the potential resistance from the teens here.  I had my son email them when we went to the hotel at night so it wasn't overwhelming when we got home from the entire trip. I'm sure a hand written note would be best, but we chose the email version.

 Finally, have fun!  I got to spend time with my son in Colorado while looking at schools and then another 5 days with him driving around the East Coast in a little rental car listening to every 80's song ever produced.  It was a special time.  He did a great job talking to a gizzilion adults about majors, money, soccer and the Army, etc.  

This summer my son will be applying to colleges.  
Do you have any suggestions for him?


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