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Your First College Visits

My guess is that a few of you this spring, like me, will be taking your high school student on that first official college visit. So I’m arming my daughter and me with the strategies to maximize the value of these time and money consuming visits.

Of course, we’re signing up for a campus tour and information session.  But those alone probably won’t tell us enough to know whether she should choose that college.  So she’ll be going to lunch with students and attending at least one class with them.  If we don’t yet know a student there, we’re asking the admissions office to connect us.  

To help the likelihood of the college choosing her, we also request an interview. I always encourage students to be their authentic extroverted selves in interviews. Taking a pause before answering a question and finishing a sentence before beginning another can also work well. The maddening modern habit of starting another thought before the current one is over must frustrate some admissions folks as much as me.  Unfortunately fewer and fewer colleges interview applicants anymore so you’ll have to ask for one.

We’re also emailing athletic coaches to set up meetings and asking them if she can attend practice.  If there’s time to knock on the door of the choral director, we’ll do it when we’re there.

We’re armed with questions for everyone we meet.

  • How is your college different from others?
  • What would you change about your college?
  • What do you wish you had known about your college when you were 17?
  • When you’re 24 and you come back to see friends and professors, how many professors will you make a point of visiting?
  • How many of your current professors know your name?
  • How many times each week does your English class meet?  Is it three times a week for an hour or twice a week for ninety minutes? Or is it the increasingly common single meeting each week for three hours or so?
  • How often are your professors absent from class due to other responsibilities?
  • Do students live on campus all four years?

Then, if necessary, be sure to visit the financial aid office to learn how you might enhance your chances of winning more aid. Don’t leave until you know exactly what scores and grades would trigger big scholarships.

We’ll bring cards with us so that she can send hand-written thank you notes each night to the key people that she met that day.

Yes, this is a big effort, but if she’s going to spend four years, we better strategically spend at least four hours.

John Baylor is a father, husband, author, Stanford grad, broadcaster and owner of John Baylor Prep. The mission of JBP is to help families and schools create two and four-year college graduates with minimal debt. You can listen to the John Baylor Prep Show on KHUB (1340 AM) in Fremont, KNCY (1600 AM) in Nebraska City, KLIN (1400 AM)in Lincoln, or by going to johnbaylorprepshow.com.

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