By: Dina Karlon, M.A.
NESCA Transition Specialist
So often students feel pressure to come up with a plan of what they want to do with their lives; college is expensive and it’s a big decision. I will say to you that while it feels overwhelming, there are things you can do to limit the stress. During the winter holiday season, college is likely one of the last things you want to think about as a junior or parent of a high school junior. But now is a great time to plan your college campus visits!
While knowing what you want to do (and study) is important, it is not necessary to know that before deciding on a college. If you know you are going to college, you need to make sure it’s a place you can see yourself living at. Therefore, the feeling you get when on a campus is very important. That’s why I am suggesting you spend some time on it.
Here are some tips for planning your winter and spring college visits:
- School breaks are a perfect time to visit colleges. This is because colleges are in session when high schools have their breaks. You can always visit in the summer, but you will not get the same “feel” of how busy the campus is when the students are not there.
- Register through the school website for the visit. Colleges do keep track of positive contacts from students (i.e., “points of contact”); it will demonstrate to the college that you are interested enough in the school to go and see it. If you just do a drive by or a self-directed visit, it doesn’t count with the college. You want them to know that you were on campus, so register!
- What schools to look at? If you have narrowed your college list, you will know what schools to look at. If you have not, don’t worry. Just getting out there to see schools can help – you will be narrowing your search by visiting campuses as well. Remember, the feeling you get when you are on campus is just as important, probably more important, than anything else. If you are traveling out-of-state for the breaks, visit a college when you are out there. If you are staying home, do some local or in-state colleges – both 2- and/or 4-year schools.
- Remember when you go on a visit that they are trying to sell you the school. They should; that is their job! Your job is to be an educated consumer, so do your homework. Do a little bit of research before you go to the school. Treat it like a job interview – have a couple of questions that you want to ask. For example, ask: What kind of tutoring is there for students? Is it free? Who tutors? These are questions that may be of particular importance to you. One of my favorite questions is: How big is your commuter population? You may wonder, why is this important? Well, if it is a high number, that means that most people are not there during the weekend. If you are planning on being there on weekends, you don’t want to be alone. You want other students there. Schools that have a lot of people leave for the weekend are referred to as “suitcase colleges”. They are not as good for people who live on campus on weekends.
- Go off the beaten path if you can. The student ambassadors giving the tour love the school and are likely being paid for the tour. They are often students with lengthy resumes about their involvement with the school (which is awesome but can feel intimidating). So if possible, talk with other students and ask them about their experience.
- Eat in the cafeteria. You will likely be eating there for every meal (at least freshman year), so you want to know what that experience will be like. Are there a lot of options? Is it very busy?
- Don’t schedule more than two visits in a day. Visiting schools can be exhausting and schools can all start to look alike after a while. Here is the itinerary: Visit one in the morning, eat lunch to debrief the first one (keep a notebook or digital notes/pictures), visit the second school in afternoon, and debrief that school during dinner or on the drive home. If you can do one a day, even better. But doing two in one day can be more time effective. Just don’t so more than two; you won’t remember them!
So you went on a visit and you didn’t like the school. What a waste of time! You would never go there! Congratulations! You just started whittling your list and didn’t waste money going to a school that you wouldn’t be happy at. Also, you know more about what you do want to look for on your next college visit.
On a personal note, I have two adult children of my own and have survived the college process. One of the college visits that stood out to me the most was one we attended on a cold, rainy, Friday afternoon. It was a college in a different state from where we live, so my daughter would be living there. Many people didn’t show up for the college visit (probably due to the timing and the weather). Because of that, we had our own tour guide. During the visit, the campus was very busy – students were walking around the campus on a late Friday rainy afternoon. It was clear that students were engaged and planning on being there for the weekend. My daughter ended up going there and enjoyed her college experience. There were obviously other factors that helped her with her choice, but that visit had a significant impact on her decision.
About the Author:
Dina DiGregorio Karlon, M.A. is a seasoned counselor specialized in transition issues. She has worked over 15 years as a school counselor in public high schools and has additional experience as a GED program coordinator, career center coordinator, and vocational assessment specialist. She has additionally worked for New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation as a rehabilitation counselor and also for the New Hampshire Department of Education.
At NESCA, Ms. Karlon offers coaching services as well as transition planning consultation to students, families, and fellow professionals in New Hampshire. In addition to her work at NESCA, Ms. Karlon is a Program Specialist for the New Hampshire Department of Education, specializing in the development of employability skills and job readiness skills for at-risk youth.
When providing transition services, Ms. Karlon most enjoys the relationships that she is able to create with her clients and/or students and their families. She loves being part of helping them figure out their strengths and challenges and helping them realize their goals and dreams. Ms. Karlon knows that often the path after high school is not traveled from A to B, but rather it is A to E, to C, and then back to A. She works hard to help her clients view each setback as an opportunity for growth rather than a failure, to recognize their own strengths, and to overcome the barriers that may get in the way of setting goals, solving problems, and making progress. She brings extensive experience supporting clients with career and college planning and she is able to shift fluidly with clients along their paths in each of these domains.
If you are interested in a consultation, pre-college coaching, or transition planning with Ms. Karlon, please complete NESCA’s intake form today and indicate interest in “Transition Consultation and Planning”
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.