Kiersten Murphy is the Executive Director of Murphy College Consultants and advises WWFHA and its members as a pro-staffer in the college admissions process.
Now is a fantastic time for juniors (and sophomores and freshmen—it’s never too early!) to be forward thinking, and incorporate some college visits into tournament trips and winter and spring breaks, even if they’re just quick visits to assess what style, size and location. The biggest hurdle for students is identifying which colleges to visit to make it a worthwhile endeavor, as college trips can be pricey, and let's face it, exhausting. That is where working with an independent college counselor comes into play - developing a list of colleges for you to visit and explore is my specialty. But not everyone is able to work with an independent college counselor, so where should you begin?
Depending on the time of the year, you may approach it differently. February break can be used to investigate different types of colleges nearby if you have yet to see any at all. If you are shooting for April, you should be targeted in what you see, as your college list should be developed by this point, and it should be balanced between those schools that are more of reaches to those that are more possible.
Why Should You Visit?
I don’t think there are many of you out there that would buy an expensive pair of jeans or a new car without trying it out. You can read about it, look at pictures, but you really don’t know how it fits you. The same would be true of one of your biggest investments – your college education. College brochures are attractive, websites offer details relating to statistics, but what you really need to do is to see it, to know if you can ultimately see yourself there.
Which Should You Visit?
Even if you have a college list developed, it wouldn’t hurt to investigate schools that are outside of your comfort zone. If you are focusing on urban setting colleges, try to see a few rural liberal arts options. If you are only looking at public universities, take a look at a few private colleges that meet some of your criteria. You might be surprised about what you end up liking.
Leave a Footprint
Not only is important for you to visit to determine if a college is the right fit for you, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate interest in the college. Colleges want to admit students who want to attend, and if you never make an effort to visit, email or call a counselor, how will they know that you really are interested?
When Should You Visit?
Now is a great time to start planning for students in their junior year of high school. February and Spring breaks are a great time to see the campus in action, and allow you to observe and interact with students. Summer visits are a bit harder, as you won’t see the campus when it is in session, but you will get an opportunity to see the facilities, speak with admissions, chat with a coach or professor and explore the surrounding community.
Preparing For Your Trip
Take a look at each college’s website to review their visiting information (tour & information session times, department specific tours, how to register, directions, & hotel suggestions) and pull out your map and see how you can best maximize your time, especially before or after a hockey tournament. Two college visits per day is the maximum. You actually could have a very in-depth experience if you were able to spend almost a full day at just one - tour and info session, sit in on a class, lunch with a student or your parents, check out the bookstore, go to a sporting event and explore the surrounding neighborhood. You can also connect with the admissions counselor that covers your region in advance to see if they have time to say hello to you before the tour begins (this is more advisable with the smaller universities and colleges).
The day of your visit
Dress comfortably. Also allow extra time to get to campus before your scheduled appointments. Finding visitor parking and the admissions building can often be more challenging that you would expect. Be sure to have the physical address of the admission office handy for your GPS, versus the address of the campus. Make sure you also have printed out visitor parking permits in advance if they were offered to you when you registered for the visit.
I would encourage you all to walk in the front of the pack on the tour. It’s hard to hear if you are not in the front and many tour guides walk and talk, making it hard to catch it all. You don’t want to have come all this way and not hear the valuable information being shared. Your college visits may blend together so it can be helpful to take some photos while walking about. Feel free to ask questions whenever you wish, especially when the tour guide is not giving you the “talk”. There are no wrong questions to ask, but ask questions that you actually want to know the answer to…something that isn’t easily accessible from the college website. At the end, be sure to thank the tour guide and ask for their email just in case you have questions in the future.
The information session is usually led by an admissions counselor and allows you to learn more about the application process at this particular school. Some sessions can be quite large (hundreds of people) while others can potentially be very small or even one-on-one.
The Big Interview
Don’t panic, they aren’t as bad as you think they are – think of them as a conversation. Remember, a college admissions counselor wants to get to know you and your interests. This is your big chance to shine, so be prepared to discuss three things about yourself at length to get you started. If you have some discrepancies on your transcript, now would be the time to discuss it. Likewise, if there is something special about yourself you would like to share that won’t be evident on your application, be sure to let them know. Although the interview is not required at the majority of schools, it can be highly recommended at some.
When You Leave
Be sure to jot down your impressions before they fade. If you have interviewed, it is polite to send a thank you note to the interviewer. If time permits, grab lunch in the dining hall, or at a nearby restaurant that is a college fan favorite. Don't forget to explore the neighborhood around campus for a better sense of place.
If you would like to know more about how I develop college lists for students, so they know exactly which colleges to visit, please email or call me via the following contacts information.
Murphy College Consultants