Tag Archives: College Tours

What we talk about when we talk about college: an early decision.

“Do we talk about anything other than college these days?”

Our daughter, Mod Squad Julie, asked me that over dinner last weekend, before adding, “It’s okay, that’s about all I’m thinking about anyway.”

Alarm Clock

Is it too early?

Early in the morning, two days before that dinner, Julie and I set out on one more college visit. I cannot say that will be our last campus visit, but it is the last we will undertake before she submits her first application.

Julie wanted to revisit this campus with a number of questions in mind:

  • Could she see herself there as a student?
  • Did she feel comfortable in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus?
  • Where do first year students live?
  • How close is that to the center of campus?
  • Does she like the dorms?
  • What does the student body look like, in terms of diversity, dress, attitude?
  • How studious are they? Or, do they seem to be?
  • How does that fit with what she is looking for?
  • Was this college still her first choice?
  • Does she still love it enough to apply Early Decision?

My task was straightforward:  help her find the answers to her questions.

Our job as parents isn’t to make this decision for her.  But we want to help make sure she has asked enough questions of the school and of her own reactions to the school so that she can make an informed decision. That’s not to say we don’t have any input, but our input on the decision was provided long ago when we three–parents and daughter–discussed the characteristics of her list of colleges and what made the most sense to all of us. We’ve agreed on the short list; this is about the shortest list, a list of one.

“Do you like it? What do you think? Look what I see when I step out of the dorm!”

Campus tours weren’t offered during Julie’s initial visit due to our timing–we visited immediately before commencement weekend. We had listened to the admissions information session, Julie met with a department chair, and then a 2013 graduate showed us around another department’s facilities. There was more than enough to snare Julie’s interest. Now, five months later–a long time in the life of a teenager–was she still that interested?

This visit, we walked the neighborhood in all directions, located the first year dorms, peeked into the dining hall, sat in on a class, and took the official tour.

“I’m looking for where I could hang out on my own. If I need space, where would I go?”

Is it too early to decide?  Last year, I offered a nephew three reasons to apply early:

  1. Gain a huge sense of accomplishment by seeing one application through to the end,
  2. Get the Common App interface figured out by seeing one application through to the end, and
  3. Receive an early response.

This year’s Common App, with its numerous glitches for both students and colleges, could make the application completion feel even sweeter. But there are a few other considerations for applying early:  Do the student’s grades and accomplishments through junior year support a strong application? Is the student’s SAT or ACT testing complete? Does the student have time to complete applications by, well, right about now?

Many colleges offer either Early Action or Early Decision, not both. Early Decision adds more heft to the question, since that application requires the student, parent, and guidance counselor to commit that, if offered admission, the student will accept, and there are significant financial aid considerations. Since Julie’s college of choice only offers Early Decision, her follow-up questions boil down to:  Am I ready to commit now?

A couple of  years ago Julie loved a different college and talking of applying there Early Decision, but her interest stemmed mainly from attending a musical theatre camp there in seventh grade.

This time is different. Almost every aspect of this school offers a strong connection to her interests. While still on campus during the first visit she drafted a list of why she wanted to attend. Julie’s visit last week confirmed and strengthened her choice. The academics, the campus, advising, class sizes, location, challenge:  they are what she wants.

Now we walk a fine line together, of loving a college yet trying not to love it too much, because no matter how strong the student, how compelling the application, there are no guarantees. While she awaits the outcome, I’ll try to help her stay away from College Confidential, and I’ll try to stop myself from reminding her she’ll thrive wherever she ends up.

This post appeared in slightly different form on True Admissions, the blog of College Admission: From Application To Acceptance.

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Three big reasons to visit colleges during Private College Week

The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia offers three very compelling reasons to visit participating colleges next week:  three application fee waivers.

English:

“Washington College at Lexington,” by Henry Howe. NYPL Digital Collection.

July 29th – August 2nd has been named Virginia Private College Week by the Council, and they offer a pretty sweet deal: Visit any three of the twenty-four participating colleges during the week and you will receive three application fee waivers for any three Virginia private colleges of your choice.

What’s in it for you:  Potential savings of $150 or so + more information from colleges that interest you. Nothing beats a college visit for getting a feel for the school.

What’s in it for them:  Colleges really want you to visit their campuses. You will hear their best pitch. You might accept their story on how and why their school is the best for you. You might decide that private colleges compare favorably to public universities. You might fall in love with their school. You might apply and, by boosting application numbers, help drive selectivity ratings, which help increase US News & World Report ratings.*

Here’s the list of participating colleges and universities:

  • Averett University
  • Bluefield College
  • Bridgewater College
  • Eastern Mennonite University
  • Emory & Henry College
  • Ferrum College
  • Hampden-Sydney College
  • Hampton University
  • Hollins University
  • Jefferson College of Health Sciences
  • Liberty University
  • Lynchburg College
  • Mary Baldwin College
  • Marymount University
  • Randolph College
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Roanoke College
  • Shenandoah University
  • Sweet Briar College
  • University of Richmond
  • Virginia Intermont College
  • Virginia Union University
  • Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Washington and Lee University

Learn more at Virginia Private College Week. They provide profiles of each of the member colleges and specific information about scheduled information sessions.

This is simply a public service announcement. Do any other states offer something like this?

I wish we could take advantage of it, but Mod Squad Julie is finishing up an internship and the rest of us are trying to get our work (and play and summer reading assignments) done to head out of town for a family reunion. And maybe write a post about college essays if there’s time…

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What Happens When? The College Admissions Calendar, expanded.

I published a College Admissions Calendar in early May and asked for suggestions of any missed items. Here’s the calendar, updated with suggestions [credited below]. I’ve added a couple of notes at the end for recommended parent-student discussions. Those are always fun.

For college admissions May 1st marks the New Year — the end of one college admissions year and the beginning of the next. This is a great time to look at what happens throughout the year for anyone on a path toward college.

College teeMay

  • May 1 is the deadline for students to accept an offer from, and pay a deposit to, the college of their choice. Most, but not all colleges, that is. Here’s why (and no, it’s not for the benefit of the students): Random thoughts on May 1.
  • First two full weeks of May:  AP exams. All HS students taking AP courses take the exams at the same time.
  • First three weeks of May:  IB exams. All HS students taking IB courses take the exams at the same time. More information via the International Baccalaureate website, here.
  • SAT & SAT Subject tests (aka SAT IIs) offered. Typically SATs are offered every month except April, July, August, and September. SAT Subject tests are offered every time SATs are offered except March, but not all subjects are offered each time. Specific details on APs, SATS, and SAT Subject tests can be found at the College Board’s website, Big Future.
  • Parents and college counselors urge HS juniors to request recommendation letters from teachers before school lets out. (Note: typically teachers write the letters in the fall and upload them to the Common App interface after the student has specified his or her colleges. However, many teachers appreciate the advance notice and the opportunity to prep for the letters during the summer.)
  • Also, before school lets out, rising seniors should find out how to get a transcript sent from the school during the summer. Some colleges will offer targeted students incentives, such as recommendation waivers, application fee waivers or even small scholarship offers, if they get the completed application to the college in early September.

June

  • ACT tests are offered in June, September, October, December, February, and April. Specific details can be found at the ACT website.
  • Orientation for new college students begins, this usually includes help with registration. Parents are usually invited and are offered their own orientation track.
  • Parents of HS students may want to visit campuses while on summer road-trips.

July

  • The summer before senior year brings opening day for coach/athlete communications. This NCAA pdf provides a calendar for 2012-13.  Athletic recruitment adds an algorithmic level of complexity.
  • AP scores are sent to exam-takers; exams are scored on a scale of 1 [low] to 5; 3 is considered a passing score. The more selective the college, the higher score required for credit. Some colleges do not provide credit, but may use the scores for placement. See college websites for each college’s AP credit policy. Here’s what UVa accepts in the College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Parents and college counselors urge rising seniors to start drafting essays. Some students do. Read: How to Write a College Essay (in 10 Steps).
  • Another summer task for rising seniors:  investigate scholarship opportunities since many have fall or early winter deadlines. From a HS counselor, “This should start even in middle school. … It is NEVER too early to start searching for scholarships.”

August

  • The Common App goes live for the new application season. Some students actually apply in August. (Nobody I know.) Bookmark this site:  Common Questions for the Common App.
  • For new college students:  first tuition payment is required!

September

  • Many HS guidance counselors provide detailed information to seniors, including how much time is required for transcript requests, recommendation letters, etc.
  • Many HS guidance counselors will also provide guidelines on scholarship applications.
  • Freshmen, sophomores and juniors may want to start thinking about community service opportunities, if they haven’t already. Many honor societies and scholarships require service time.
  • Seniors should consider college visits. Many colleges have autumn visit days and may offer overnight stays.

October

  • Earliest Early Admission and Early Decision deadlines occur. (Note: the 2012-13 Common App listed October 30 as the earliest application deadline. However, many college counselors will advise students to submit at least two weeks prior to the published deadline.)
  • Many high schools offer PSAT/NMSQTs to sophomores (mostly for practice) and juniors (for National Merit Scholarship qualification).
  • The October SAT date is typically the latest that will get scores reported to colleges for Early deadlines.
  • Parents need to check financial aid requirements for early applications. Some will require an application in the fall. The CSS Financial Aid Profile, via College Board and required by most private universities, goes live October 1 for the following school year.

November

  • Early application reading season for admissions, extends into January.
  • Early applicants should prepare for the possibility of college interviews, either with admission officers or local alumni.
  • Parents and college counselors may urge seniors to finish essays over Thanksgiving break. Some students do.

December

  • The December SAT date is typically the latest that will get scores reported for regular deadlines.
  • Early decisions start to be received in December. Some HS students face rejection for the first time. (Deal with it and move on.)
  • Important:  many college decisions will be provided via the college’s SIS, requiring the student to log-in. Keep a file of the log-in IDs used for different colleges.
  • Important:  now is when HS seniors need to check email regularly. See Calling All Texters: Read Your Email!
  • December 31 is the deadline for the majority of regular admission applications.

January

  • The new FAFSA goes live January 1st. Some families actually submit that day. (Nobody I know.) Read: Catch-22: How and When to Complete the FAFSA and Your Tax Returns.
  • Regular application reading season for admissions officers, extends through March.
  • Regular season applicants should prepare for the possibility of college interviews, either with admission officers or local alumni.
  • Sophomores and juniors receive PSAT scores. Approximately three hours later they start to receive emails and marketing mailers from colleges.
  • HS course registration may begin for the next school year.
  • Summer enrichment opportunities often require applications by January or February. See a very long list our local school division provides here.

February

  • Many colleges require the FAFSA submission by the end of February. Parents need to prepare preliminary, or draft, tax returns in order to submit the FAFSA. Bookmark this site: FAFSA FAQs.

March

  • Regular admission decisions should be received by the end of March.
  • Once parents file finished tax returns, they must update the FAFSA and/or link it to the return via the FAFSA/IRS interface.

April

  • HS juniors may want to spend their spring break visiting campuses. Setting up appointments with professors can help them learn more about each school. Read: Sending emails to strangers. At colleges. Asking for appointments.
  • HS seniors may want to attend admitted day programs for specific questions, to help aid their final decisions. Read: Who should attend an admitted student event?
  • Many communities hold college fairs, bringing a large number of campus reps to one location.
  • Financial aid letters, in all their confusing glory, may be received through the month of April.
  • HS juniors who have qualified for National Merit recognition are notified.
  • Last two weeks of April:  many HS students put life on hold to prep for AP exams in early May. Except for Prom, spring sports, part-time jobs, and, like, hanging out with friends.
  • Last two weeks of April:  many HS senior families square up to the college decision.

Important discussions for families about the college list: 

  1. Finances. Each family will make their own decisions on this. My recommendation: have a frank and open discussion early on–at least by spring of junior year–about how finances may impact college decisions, so the student and the parents are on the same track. Families with substantial resources for college may still balk at paying a quarter of a million dollars for an undergraduate degree. Other families may be adamant about limiting student debt. Still, others may happily pay full freight (and the colleges would like to know who you are!). Does your child know what you are willing to pay? Have both parents discussed this yet? Opinions may vary widely, especially if the parents had very different experiences paying for their own college costs.
  2. Career Services. How good is each college at providing career services and providing them early on? As Patricia Krahnke, President of Global College Search suggested, “One thing that might be interesting to add is analyzing and comparing degree program curricula and career services/academic advising for each college choice. … We find that this is an area families avoid, often because they haven’t a clue about how to do it. But it can go a very long way towards making the application process, essay writing, and interview prep process less confusing and the college choices more confident and realistic.”

Additions made with thanks to Patricia L. Krahnke, Bob Gilvey, Whitney Castillo, Christel Milak-Parker, Anne Lepesant, J B Jones, Shayne Swift, and Chuck Self.

What did I miss? Write in comments below. Thanks!

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Sending emails to strangers. At colleges. Asking for appointments.

Here’s one more reason why the college admissions process is so complicated for high school students:  at some point, after years of only emailing friends, family, and familiar teachers, your parents may insist that you sit down right now and send an email to strangers.

Right now, because this has likely been discussed a number of times over the past few weeks.

Mod Squad Mia, glad she doesn't have to write emails.

Mod Squad Mia, glad she doesn’t have to write emails.

Right now, because you need to request an appointment with someone in the department of interest while you’re visiting the college.

Right now, because the college visit is next week.

Yes, I know it would have been better if you had written last week, but it will be better if you write tonight instead of putting it off any longer.

No, you don’t know the specific person to ask — you need to look up the department and make your best guess.

Yes, it may be a different title in each department.

Yes, you may send a similar email to any number of people, but each needs to be sent to an individual, not to a group list.

Yes, it may happen that you don’t end up with any meetings.

Yes, you may end up meeting with someone in a department that ends up not being of interest to you.

Yes, you do need to write a few good things about yourself and what sort of student you are.

Yes, I do think you can figure out a way to say those good things without sounding like a braggart.

No, we will not write these for you, but we will read your drafts.

Yes, you can copy these and edit them to use again.

Yes, you do need also to write the Dean of Admissions who has sent you multiple emails, even though she has sent those emails to thousands of students. You can let her know you will be visiting and ask her advice about how best to spend your time while on campus.

Yes, you will have to do this again.

Yes, it gets easier with every email you write.

Just like this college thing gets a bit easier the second time around.

Why are college and scholarship applications so complicated?

 

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What Happens When? The College Admissions Calendar.

For college admissions May 1st marks the New Year — the end of one college admissions year and the beginning of the next. This is a great time to look at what happens throughout the year for anyone on a path toward college. (Note:  I’m sure to have missed some vital elements in the timeline. I welcome your additions or corrections — email me or list them in comments below.)

College teeMay

  • May 1 is the deadline for students to accept an offer from, and pay a deposit to, the college of their choice. Most, but not all colleges, that is. Here’s why (and no, it’s not for the benefit of the students): Random thoughts on May 1.
  • First two full weeks of May:  AP exams. All HS students taking AP courses take the exams at the same time.
  • SAT & SAT Subject tests (aka SAT IIs) offered. Typically SATs are offered every month except April, July, August, and September. SAT Subject tests are offered every time SATs are offered except March, but not all subjects are offered each time. Specific details on APs, SATS, and SAT Subject tests can be found at the College Board’s website, Big Future.
  • Parents and college counselors urge HS juniors to request recommendation letters from teachers before school lets out. (Note: typically teachers write the letters in the fall and upload them to the Common App interface after the student has specified his or her colleges. However, many teachers appreciate the advance notice and the opportunity to prep for the letters during the summer.)

June

  • Orientation for new college students begins, this usually includes help with registration. Parents are usually invited and are offered their own orientation track.
  • Parents of HS students may want to visit campuses while on summer road-trips.

July

August

  • The Common App goes live for the new application season. Some students actually apply in August. (Nobody I know.) Bookmark this site:  Common Questions for the Common App.
  • For new college students:  first tuition payment is required!

September

  • Many HS guidance counselors provide detailed information to seniors, including how much time is required for transcript requests, recommendation letters, etc.
  • Many HS guidance counselors will also provide guidelines on scholarship applications.

October

  • Earliest Early Admission and Early Decision deadlines occur. (Note: the 2012-13 Common App listed October 30 as the earliest application deadline. However, many college counselors will advise students to submit at least two weeks prior to the published deadline.)
  • Many high schools offer PSAT/NMSQTs to sophomores (mostly for practice) and juniors (for National Merit Scholarship qualification).
  • The October SAT date is typically the latest that will get scores reported to colleges for Early deadlines.
  • Parents need to check financial aid requirements for early applications. Some will require an application in the fall.

November

  • Early application reading season for admissions officers, extends into January.
  • Parents and college counselors may urge seniors to finish essays over Thanksgiving break. Some students do.

December

  • The December SAT date is typically the latest that will get scores reported for regular deadlines.
  • Early decisions start to be received in December. Some HS students face rejection for the first time. (Deal with it and move on.)
  • Important:  many college decisions will be provided via the college’s SIS, requiring the student to log-in. Keep a file of the log-in IDs used for different colleges.
  • Important:  now is when HS seniors need to check email regularly. See Calling All Texters: Read Your Email!
  • December 31 is the deadline for the majority of regular admission applications.

January

  • The new FAFSA goes live January 1st. Some families actually submit that day. (Nobody I know.) Read: Catch-22: How and When to Complete the FAFSA and Your Tax Returns.
  • Regular application reading season for admissions officers, extends through March.
  • Sophomores and juniors receive PSAT scores. Approximately three hours later they start to receive emails and marketing mailers from colleges.
  • HS course registration may begin for the next school year.
  • Summer enrichment opportunities often require applications by January or February. See a very long list our local school division provides here.

February

  • Many colleges require the FAFSA submission by the end of February. Parents need to prepare preliminary, or draft, tax returns in order to submit the FAFSA. Bookmark this site: FAFSA FAQs.

March

  • Regular admission decisions should be received by the end of March.
  • Once parents file finished tax returns, they must change the FAFSA and/or link it to the return via the FAFSA/IRS interface.

April

  • HS juniors may want to spend their spring break visiting campuses.
  • HS seniors may want to attend admitted day programs for specific questions, to help aid their final decisions. Read: Who should attend an admitted student event?
  • Many communities hold college fairs, bringing a large number of campus reps to one location.
  • Financial aid letters, in all their confusing glory, may be received through the month of April.
  • HS juniors who have qualified for National Merit recognition are notified.
  • Last two weeks of April:  many HS students put life on hold to prep for AP exams in early May. Except for Prom, spring sports, part-time jobs, and, like, hanging out with friends.
  • Last two weeks of April:  many HS senior families square up to the college decision.

What did I miss? Write in comments below. Thanks!

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College decision month: Virtual visits?

college_tee_with_sunglasses

Mod Squad Pete. And a tee shirt to be named later.

As I wrote earlier, we’re going back to a couple of college campuses this week to attend Admitted Student events, take a second (or third) look around, and ask questions.

One of Mod Squad Pete’s colleges is too far away to revisit. He’s been there twice: 1) prior to his junior year, for the full admissions tour; 2) two months ago for an audition. (He’s been accepted into one program there; awaits word from another). That school has invited Pete to attend a midweek evening event (about 120 miles away, but 600 miles closer than campus).  Here’s what’s on offer:

The event begins with a presentation on everything that  ___ U. has to offer. Topics include: housing, course selection and registration, campus life, work and extracurricular opportunities, and living in ___. Following the presentation, recent graduates will share their  ___ U. stories. The event will wrap up with a Question & Answer period.

Will that event, lasting around 90 minutes, be worth the five-hour round trip? More important to Pete, is it worth missing a track meet?

If this is the school, I’d say yes, especially given the distance. We’ll see.

If this event weren’t available, we could — and yes, even with this event, we may — avail ourselves of virtual tours and social media connections. Throughout the entire admissions process we’ve learned a great deal via blogs and tweets from colleges.

On Smart College Visit, Z. Kelly Queijo offers 8 Easy Steps to Create Your Own Virtual College Visit. Here are a few:

  • College Newspaper. Read it online or even subscribe for a while. You’ll definitely find out more about campus life.
  • College/University Blogs. If not immediately obvious from the school’s web site, use the search tool to find admissions or student blogs. There may even be a college/university president’s blog.
  • College Twitter Accounts. News, admissions, sports, events, professors, student organizations…follow the accounts representing what you think will be important to you if enrolled. You can always unfollow later.

All great ideas.

Meanwhile, our hometown University has been making social connections on Pinterest. See Pinterest 101 Courtesy of the University of Virginia for a glimpse of boards they’ve created to connect with students, alumni and — I’d bet — prospective students.

That’s a much better resource than the Fake [college president] Twitter accounts Jenna Johnson wrote about in the Washington Post!

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How many colleges should a high school student visit?

college visits

In case you missed it in Friday’s paper, the creators of Zits comic — Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman — provide the high school student’s perspective on college visits.

See the full strip here.

[Hat-tip to Monica Pawinski-Pericak, who has now visited 22 colleges with two of their three children. Not that anyone’s keeping track.]

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