Successful college visits take planning

Pre-planning your college visit is a great investment in your future.

College visits are exciting for prospective students and their families, but have you wondered what makes a successful college visit? Whether you are going to attend your hometown community college or dream of living and attending a school thousands of miles away, it is important to be prepared.

The college prep checklist from the U.S. Department of Education takes you from elementary school all the way through college application and financial aid considerations.

Prospective students and their families should consider these steps for connecting and learning about a college and planning for college visits.

  • Prepare a list of potential schools to visit. For many prospective students, their “snail” boxes and email in-boxes have been filled with attractive promotional materials trying to entice you to visit and attend their university or college.
  • After thoroughly reviewing prospective school websites and promotional materials, take a moment and prioritize which potential colleges you truly are interested in attending. Consider academics, interests, anticipated expenses, distance and community.
  • Consider the cost of travel to visit a prospective college and how to maximize your visit.
  • Explore if any of the schools you are considering provide virtual tours of their campus, housing, classrooms and athletic facilities and fields.
  • Connect with a local alumni group. Many offer “meet and greets” for prospective students and families. They also can be a source of scholarships.
  • Regional school districts partner with admission officers to offer “career evenings.” Many times, the program includes experts sharing information on financial aid and general information on the college application process.
  • Once you have narrowed it down to a few colleges or universities you would like to visit, connect with pre-admissions and register for a tour or meet with an admission officer. Meet the locals, too, and talk with students at the book store or a coffee shop.
  • During your visit, go off the map and explore the area around campus. Depending on the size of the community, is it easy to navigate? Can you see yourself as a part of the larger community?

For other considerations as you prepare for college admissions, review and complete a Federal Financial Aid application, frequently referred to as FAFSA. This is a free application process to explore eligibility for Federal Student Aid. There is even the potential for scholarships at several colleges just for completing FAFSA.

Look for ways to save money. Research scholarships and deadlines. Whether it is a $50 group to a $5,000 scholarship, each and every dollar can help defray expenses. Many times, once a student completes one scholarship application, they can adapt the information for additional applications. Remember though to personalize it to the specific source and criteria.

Many colleges and universities offer pre-college opportunities for youth to explore their knowledge and skills in a specific area. Additionally, pre-college programs offer young people the opportunity to experience and visualize themselves on a campus. For information on Michigan 4-H pre-college programs, visit Michigan State University Extension’s Pre-College Programs and Resources page.

A 2010 National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement’s research brief on pre-college programs describes the benefits of pre-college programs for participants, the community and to the host institution.

Michigan 4-H offers career curriculum and resources. 4-H is all about career exploration; no matter the project or passion, you are gaining life skills that will support a career and help youth prepare for the future.

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