College Advising Blog

View specific categories by clicking on the appropriate link below.

  • College Search

 

This week we are joined by Anna Harris, Admission Counselor at Belmont University.  Anna shares more tips for making a campus visit effective.

Ahh…the college visit. A chance for universities across the country to roll out their version of the red carpet and for parents across the country to embarrass their teenagers with endless questions about co-ed dorms and campus security. Seemingly, high school students are visiting more college campuses and doing so earlier in their high school careers than ever before. With so many attractive options available, it’s no surprise that all of the colleges on your list can start to run together. Conversations in the car ride home often end up as tangled webs of information.

“Wasn’t the four-year graduation rate higher at College B, or was that College D?”

“Now didn’t College A superscore on the ACT, or was that only at College C?”

How can you keep all of the information straight in your mind? And how on earth are you supposed to make a decision after spending a grand total of 3-4 hours on a campus? As a college admissions counselor, allow me to give you a few pointers on how to best utilize the campus visit to ultimately help determine what university is the best fit for you.

1. Plan ahead

I list this piece of advice first because it is absolutely key to making the most of your visit. First, take a look at the university’s academic calendar to make sure that classes are in session when you’re planning to visit. Otherwise, you might show up during a school break when no students or faculty are around. I guarantee the campus will feel like a ghost town, which is probably not an accurate representation of the campus culture! Another part of planning ahead is doing research beforehand and having a list of questions to ask. One of our pet peeves as admissions counselors is when a family requests a meeting and then we sit down and they say, “What questions should I ask you?” *face palm*

2. Take advantage of additional opportunities

Most campuses will be happy to accommodate additional requests such as class observations, faculty meetings, and overnight visits. Find out what is offered and how to set up these appointments. Don’t hesitate to ask your admissions counselor for help or suggestions!

3. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path

Have lunch in the dining hall, strike up conversations with people in the elevator and hallways, pretend to be lost and ask someone for directions. The structured portion of your visit is absolutely necessary to get the information you need, but getting away from the production will allow you to gain an authentic sense of whether or not you like the campus vibe.

4. Allow extra time to experience the city

A lot of students forget that they are not only choosing a college, but also a new city to call home for the next four years. The reality is that you are not going to spend 24/7 on campus, so you want to make sure you actually like the city you’re in and that you can see yourself feeling at home there. Ask for local restaurant suggestions, stay in town for a concert or sporting event, and check out the major neighborhoods around campus.

5. Journal or take notes of reflection immediately after you leave

You’ll thank yourself later! Even if it’s just a few notes about what really stuck out to you (good or bad) during your visit, having all of your thoughts organized from each different campus will allow you to go back and compare. This will be especially helpful if you visit a long list of colleges and find it difficult to differentiate them in your head!

6. Make a list of your personal “Like its, love its, & gotta have its”

For any Cold Stone Creamery fans, you know what I’m talking about! As you learn more about colleges in general, you can start to come up with your very own wish list based on what you want out of your college experience and the things that are most important to you. Your “like its” are things that you would enjoy having at your future college, but are not deal breakers. Examples for you might include new residence halls, yummy dining options, or free parking. Your “love its” are things that you really don’t want to compromise on unless absolutely necessary. An example is a certain club or intramural sport that you are passionate about continuing in college. Lastly, your “gotta have its” are personal deal breakers. These could include things like a strong program in your academic area of interest, internship opportunities, and diversity on campus. As you establish and solidify your wish list, it will be very easy to cross colleges off your list that don’t offer what you’re looking for.

7. Schedule a second visit after you have narrowed your list

Once you’ve visited all of the schools on your list and narrowed your choices down to 2-3 colleges, I highly recommend scheduling a second visit before making your final decision. This second visit is your opportunity to ask any follow up questions in person and schedule any additional appointments that you didn’t have the chance to your first time there. Visiting a second time will also allow you to get a feel for the campus atmosphere during a different time of year!

One other piece of advice I’d like to include is specifically for students who may not be able to visit all of the colleges on their list (after all, you don’t have an unlimited number of excused absences and travel can be expensive!). If that’s the case for you, try to check out any virtual tours available online, set up a phone call or email with a current student to hear their perspective, or visit the institution’s website and social media to get an idea for some of their events and traditions. Even if you can’t see the campus in person, you can still do a lot to educate yourself.

That’s it, folks! If you are just beginning your college search, don’t let it overwhelm you. The campus visit is arguably the most fun part of the whole process and should be enjoyed. At the end of the day, it’s true what they say – you will definitely have that “feeling” everyone talks about when you visit a college campus you love. Take note of these suggestions and, above all, trust your gut!

 

  • College Search

Tay Wierenga, Admissions Counselor at Calvin College, guest authors this week's blog.  Tay shares tips for a productive and meaningful campus visit.

College and university visits are often filled with class visits, meetings with professors, Q&A panels, and financial aid sessions. These are all helpful and I highly encourage you to make the most of them, but I’ve compiled a list of 5 simple things that you can do to truly make the most of your college visit.

Find Your “Thing”

There are two things that can get me through a tough day: coffee in the morning and Diet Coke in the afternoon. Because I know this about myself, whenever I leave home for vacation, a work trip, or visiting family, the first thing I do in my new location is find the nearest Starbucks and McDonald’s. You probably have one or two things that you need to get through a rough day. Whatever it is, FIND IT! Part of the joy of visiting a new campus is imagining all the new, fun things you will try if you live there, but don’t neglect the things in your life that will be added comforts, if not necessities, throughout the semester. If you are a huge coffee drinker, try the on-campus coffee shop and/or locate the nearest Starbucks (or Biggby if that’s your thing). Is Chipotle your lucky dinner before the night of an exam? Better make sure there is a Chipotle nearby! Find your “thing” and know that along with the many changes that come along with your first college semester, you will always have the comfort of your favorite things to fall back to.

Look For Students

As a college admissions counselor, I cringe when a high school student steps onto our campus during Spring Break week. “I promise our campus is normally full of students hanging out on the campus lawn, climbing the rock-wall, walking to and from classes, eating in the dining halls…” tends to be one of the first things I say. When you visit a campus, look for the students! Take note of where they spend their time. Is it the dining hall? The library? The athletic fieldhouse? Do the students on campus seem active and social or are they seemingly hiding in their dorms? If you love practicing your instrument, visit the rehearsal rooms to see if there are any students there. If you love working out, visit the school’s fitness center. Where students tend to spend their time can give you a strong glimpse into the campus’s culture and whether it is a good fit for you or not.

Take your name tag off

When you visit a campus, it is likely that one of the first things you will receive is a name tag. Name tags are great for learning names, and it’s probably best to wear them for the majority of the day, but a fun tip is to take your name tag off for a few minutes. Sit in the commons area, walk across the campus, or strike up a conversation with a student or professor. See how they act when they don’t recognize you as a visitor. Let a student talk to you as though you were another student. Let a professor talk to you without the thought of having to “sell the college” in the back of their mind.

Go to a game

…or a choir concert, or a campus-wide talent show, or a chapel service, or an exhibit at the art gallery. Find an event on campus that interests you that isn’t a part of the visit program and go! (Pro tip: at many colleges, your admissions counselor can help score you a ticket if one is required to attend!) Do something that you can imagine yourself doing as a student. Take note of student attendance, the atmosphere of the event, and have fun

Ask questions

This tip doesn’t seem very surprising. The first thing I tell students when they visit campus is to ask a lot of questions! No college or university wants its visiting students to leave campus with any unanswered questions. I encourage you to take it one step further than asking about study abroad programs and scholarship opportunities (both great questions!). Ask people for directions on campus. Ask professors questions about the coursework when you visit their classes. Ask a student what they recommend ordering for lunch. Even if you know the answers to some of these questions, this will give you a look into the general personality of the campus – how helpful, considerate, and kind the community is. Ask questions that will actually help answer the question “Will I be cared about and cared for here?”

I encourage you to try out these fun tips the next time you visit a college or university! Your college search is about more than visit brochures, information sessions, and admissions presentations. It’s about discovering what God has in store for you, and where you can envision yourself thriving academically, socially, and spiritually!

  • College Majors

BGSU

Last month, Bowling Green State University unveiled the new Cedar Fair Resort and Attraction Management Program. The major prepares students for a multibillion dollar industry in which Cedar Fair — parent company of Cedar Point and King's Island — is a widely recognized leader. 

Coursework, taught by BGSU faculty, will focus in several areas, including revenue management, supply chain management, managing public safety and operations planning. Plus, students will get to experience co-ops at Cedar Fair’s 11 parks across North America. Afterward, students will be ready to seek gainful employment anywhere they want in the resort and attraction management industry.

If you have an interest in this program, they can apply for an upcoming term or join BGSU's mailing list. It's a program offered through both Bowling Green State University and BGSU Firelands with opportunities for all types of students. Excitedly, Cedar Fair broke ground on a new facility for the major in downtown Sandusky on April 25. 

  • College Search

This week we are excited to have Mr. Addison Mills, Assistant Director for Admission at the University of Kentucky, guest author this week's blog post.  Addison shares an exciting view on how to determine if attending college out of state is right for you.

 

See the source image

So, you’re looking at an out-of-state school. What now? What factors do you even consider? Cost? Campus location? Distance from home? Honestly, it would be a mistake to consider any institution based on any one factor – especially an out-of-state school.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: out of state colleges and universities are going to be more expensive. Sure, there are exceptions like smaller schools offering in-state tuition rates or special scholarships that take down the difference but those are few and far between. For example, a smaller university in Kentucky offers in-state tuition to students in the Cincinnati area but what if you don’t want to go there? What if you want to look at a school in North Carolina? Considering schools based on cost alone isn’t the most impartial way to go about looking at out of state options. So, let’s talk about what things to keep in mind when you’re looking out of state…

Firstly, it’s absolutely OK to be subjective in your college search. Objective things beyond cost and how much money you can earn in scholarships are only a part of the bigger picture. It’s ok to consider student life and other more subjective things.

Think of pie. Everyone likes pie, right? Or at least mostly everyone! Think of a nice warm, steamy, gooey pecan pie (a favorite in Lexington, KY). All these different ingredients go into making that pie. You have sugar, dough, pecans, milk… Same thing applies when you’re looking at out of state schools. Let’s call the cost and financial aid the pie crust. You can’t have pie with out the crust. But if you’re just eating an empty crust with no filling or other ingredients, you’re going to be full (probably) but very unsatisfied. It just won’t taste good. All the other ingredients that go into your search is the filling that makes your college pie delicious.            

What are those ingredients you ask? There are a few that you’ll want to consider. Number one, does the school offer your program or major? Chances are good that a large school like University of Kentucky will, with few exceptions. But finding a school with your major is like finding a bag of sugar and calling it desert. You can find your Biology or Dance or Engineering degree at most major schools. So that’s a checkbox you’ll want to fill in, but that shouldn’t be where the process ends. The last thing you want to tell yourself is “Welp, they have my major and I have decent financial aid there. Guess I’m going to XYZ U!” So, what’s next?

The entire point I’d like for you to take away from reading this is as follows: Find Your Best Fit. It is my sole job as an admission counselor for UK to first help you discover for yourself if UK is a good fit for you or isn’t. All other pieces of the pie fall into place after that because that IS the pie. How to best find a good fit is to consider all factors that will be a part of your college experience. Will you be spending 12 hours a day in a classroom and then the other 12 hours sleeping or doing homework? Not a chance. On the other hand, will you be spending all day at the dog park with your brand new puppy from our 4 Paws socializing program then head over to Alumni Gym to get swole then stay up ‘til 3AM binging Game of Thrones cause you never started it years ago when everyone else did? Nope. At least I’d hope not. College is about that balance. Academics and Student Life are two separate but intertwined factors to consider when choosing any school but especially out-of-state schools. The best way to do that is to connect with your admission counselor and also make a campus visit (or two or three!). Try to look at and think about all the things that attending that school would mean to you.

To conclude, here are some questions you may ask… What things can you do in class? What research options or internships are available? Are there study abroad programs? Does the school host lectures and concerts and other entertainment on campus? The list can go on. If it’s important to you – whether you feel like it’s a ‘smart’ thing like research options or something seemingly trivial like ‘can I get basketball tickets fairly easy?’ – then look into it! It’s all about the pie you want to bake to make that college away from home feel like your new home. And hopefully it will become your home! Remember, you’re going to be in school for at least 4 years and you’re going to live where you learn. So don’t just shop for a new school; shop for your new home.

  • Communication

This week we are excited to have Mr. Wade Rhoades, Admissions Counselor at Ohio Northern University, guest author this week's blog post.  Wade provides some helpful tips for students as they communicate with the Office of Admission at various institutions.

See the source image

Communication is the quintessential skill in every facet of our lives.  We need to be able to communicate, both verbally and in written form, articulately and concisely.  We also need to have the ability to craft our communication to match our intended audience.  With that the following tips will help you communicate with college admissions officials, as you begin/continue your college application process.

·         Professional Email:  A large portion of the college application process is promoting your own personal brand and showcasing your professionalism.  Nothing is worse from our side of the desk than when Joe Smith presents an impeccable application but lists his email address as “spacecowboy34@gmail.com”.  I would encourage all of you to create (if you haven’t done so already) a professional email account that you use exclusively for college communications. 

·         Write to your Audience: A letter that you write to your best friend across the country should read and present vastly different than an email being sent to a college admission official.  If you are writing to a potential college and you’re using slang terms and your sentences are not coherent, that official has formed an impression of you that could follow you throughout your application process, so it would best suit you to proofread all communications. 

·         Don’t Be Shy:  I think that there is a misconception that by sending emails to admissions officials, students will feel that are bothering us or that they will seem “pushy” or “needy”.  I believe that to not be the case.  Students that reach out to me are students that I take note of and remember, in part because that communication expresses your interest in my institution, and our relationship will be much stronger than if I have no idea that you’re interested.  I personally love when students ask me the random questions as I believe that those questions can lead to the best conversations.  I tell students and parents to not hesitate to reach out if they have questions.  I would rather you have all of your questions answered, than wondering “what if?”.