Choosing the right college is one of the most important financial and life decisions you and your teenage will ever share. There’s a lot of planning and discussions involved in choosing the right college, from what to study, to how to pay for it.
College visits can help in choosing the right college, allowing you and your teen to assess if the college will be worth the time and financial investment. Get the most out of college visits with these helpful tips and questions for college visits.
Helpful Tips for College Visits
College visits are key to gauging what a college can offer, and how your teen may settle in. Planning ahead is essential, to ensure that you and your teen make an informed decision. Get started with these helpful tips for college visits.
When to Start College Visits
Start college visits once your teen enters high school, even if they don’t yet have firm plans. Early browsing provides a useful baseline, and combining college visits with family getaways can help cut costs. Increase college visits the summer before senior year.
How Many College Visits at a Time?
Most students visit 5-20 schools, so visiting all suitable colleges in one area can save time and money. That said, avoid confusion by limiting visits to 1-2 per day, and 4-5 per trip.
Review printed materials, the college’s website, and use online resources before scheduling a college visit. Some colleges offer virtual tours, which are time- and cost-effective, especially for far-flung choices.
Parents and Campus Visits
While subsequent college visits can be solo, ideally at least one parent should attend initially, to provide a different perspective, moral support, etc. Just be sure to let your student take the lead!
When to Visit
Weekend and summer visits to older siblings and friends can highlight the social aspects of college life, but term-time visits best depict everyday life on-campus. However, avoid the start or end of semesters, mid-terms, and finals.
College Open Houses
Most colleges schedule open houses, where you and your teen can tour the campus, meet faculty and students, and even participate in classes. Some high schools and college travel programs organize visits including transportation.
How Long Do College Visits Last?
Campus visits typically last 2 to 3 hours, but consider extending your visit to include additional academic discussions, meetings with administrators, and simply exploring the campus and local area.
Questions for College Visits
Preparing a standard set of questions in advance allows for clearer comparison and, ultimately, a better decision. Use a phone, camera and/or notebook to record campus details and answers to the following questions:
Student Tour Guides
Student tour guides are typically paid to answer standard questions in a positive light. Address more in-depth questions to college administrators and educators, and have your teen ask other students questions like:
- Is studying here what you expected?
- Are school administrators helpful?
- What’s campus life like?
- Would you apply again?
Evaluate the Academics
This is a top priority, especially if your teen has a specific interest. While some questions about academics, special interests, and course requirements can be found on a college’s website, questions to ask faculty and staff during a college visit include:
- What’s the average class size for core subjects?
- How many professors are tenured versus adjunct?
- Typically, how many hours of homework/group work are assigned?
- How often do students meet with academic advisors?
- What additional help is available e.g., learning centers, tutoring programs, disability resources, etc.?
- What opportunities exist to pursue a minor or a double major?
- Are classes transferable if a student changes track?
- What areas receive increased funding for research and study?
- What percentage of freshmen return?o What’s the graduation rate at four years, and at five years?
Future Employment Opportunities
Choosing the right college can influence your teen’s future career – everything from networking opportunities, to how quickly they’ll advance professionally , and future earnings. While future earnings shouldn’t necessarily dictate your teen’s chosen course of study, it should be evaluated, relative to education costs, potential loan repayment, and your own finances.
Ask the careers department or specific department chairs:
- What career placement services are offered, at the departmental and college level?
- Does the college or department facilitate career networking opportunities?
- How many students secure internships each year?
- How many students graduate with a job?o What’s the average starting salary across various fields?
College Costs & Financial Assistance
Paying for college is one of the biggest financial hurdles most American families face. Evaluating college costs, relative to your own financial resources is critical. Suggested questions include:
- What’s the total cost for attendance, including tuition, room, board, books, technology equipment, labs, and other fees?
- How much have costs increased over the last five years?
- What percentage of students receive financial aid?
- What’s the average financial aid package and what percentage of total costs does it cover?
- Is any assistance offered to obtain grants and scholarships?
- What student work-study opportunities exist, and how are these assigned?
- How much college debt does the average student leave with?
- How many students study abroad, and what are the merits and costs?
Finally, your child’s safety on campus is paramount. Research local crime statistics and gauge how safe it feels on and off-campus during your visit. Also, ask the following questions:
- Request a copy of college safety policies.
- Ask how different types of incident are addressed.
College visits help you and your student when choosing the right college for their future success. However, while securing an education for your teen is important, so too is securing your own financial future. A well-thought out financial plan can help your family meet the costs of college, as well as balance other important financial and life priorities like saving for retirement. We invite you to contact SageVest Wealth Management for more information about our customized, comprehensive planning services.