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Stanford_13677363 copyDon’t judge a college by its brochure! If you’re serious about going to college, then you need to look beyond those expensive, glossy, full-color college brochures, or fancy websites, which tout the institution’s image and credentials.

To get the most out of your campus visit, you must gather first-hand intelligence about the schools on your list. And the summertime is an excellent time for high-school juniors (who are about to become seniors) to plan summer/fall college visits.

The most important source of information about a college is the personal impression you receive from visiting the campus. Personal visits are mandatory. Unless you actually visit your candidate schools, you’ll never know what it’s like to be there.

Going to college is one of the most important decisions that a young person makes and with over a million students starting college every fall, the campus visit is serious business. However, most visits fall far short of their potential. This is because prospective students and parents don’t ask the right questions and they end up settling for the information that institutions routinely provide. Does it really matter how many books are in the library, or how many faculty members have Ph.D.s (which says nothing about their ability to teach)?

Many research studies show that what matters most to a high quality undergraduate experience is whether students engage in a variety of educationally sound activities, inside and outside the classroom. The more students study a subject, the more they learn about it.

Likewise, the more students practice and get feedback on their writing, analyzing, or problem solving, the more adept they become. And the more experience they have with people from different backgrounds, the more sensitive, comfortable and effective they will be when working with such people. Simply put, the more engaging the college, the more students learn.

Surprisingly, students hear almost nothing about “learning” when they visit campuses. But they can find out by asking certain questions of tour guides, admissions staff and faculty members. Answers to the following questions will reveal things about a college that you may never discover otherwise:

  • How much reading and writing is assigned in the first year?
  • How often do students meet with faculty members outside of class?
  • Are students encouraged to work together to solve problems or work on projects?
  • In what ways is information technology used in the classroom?
  • Who do students talk with about career plans? Do they have a career center?

The summer is a great time to visit colleges, but asking the right questions can reveal matters of substance and style that reflect the educational quality of a college. If your student plans to visit colleges this summer, give us a call first. We can help you get the “inside information” during your campus visit.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

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