Selecting colleges with the right fit from among all available options can be overwhelming as high school juniors and seniors start the college application process. Starting earlier, even as early as middle school, with no-commitment introductions to various types of college campuses can help your student understand what he or she finds most suitable.
Here are five ways to explore different types of college campuses:
- Surf the web. While very different from an in-person visit, exploring a college’s website can help students narrow down what they like and don’t like about different types of colleges. Does a small private college with specialized programs suit them, or would they prefer the variety and relative anonymity of a larger public university? Does the campus map or photos of buildings seem overwhelming or manageable? Does the campus have a park-like setting or is it spread out in an urban area? What kind of feelings does the architecture evoke?
- Take a leisurely walk. If you live or travel near a college or university, stop for a stroll through campus. You don’t need to set up a formal tour to get a feel for how students interact, how buildings are laid out and the modernity of dorm rooms and common spaces. Walk through the student union and a classroom building to get a peek behind the scenes. Stop in the campus bookstore to check out the selection of themed merchandise, and watch for fliers and posters advertising upcoming events.
- Join the crowd. Go to a game, cultural event or open house on campus to see a different side of college life. Are students involved in the activities your child enjoys? How active are alumni as fans, supporters and donors? Are these events appealing to the local community?
- Visit a friend or relative. If your student knows any current college students, see if a visit would work out. An afternoon at a local campus might be enough for your child to see how he or she might spend time on that campus and have a chance to talk with older students about what they like and don’t like. If you’re comfortable, an overnight stay with a trusted current student can be very enlightening for a younger student.
- Stay awhile. Many college campuses host overnight camps for athletic, academic and special interest programs during summer breaks. Going to camp will allow your child to stay in a dorm with other like-minded students, eat in dining centers, use the campus facilities and explore the surrounding community.