As high schools say goodbye to the Class of 2015, members of the Class of 2016 are making summer plans that include college visits. Often built in as part of a family vacation, summer campus visits can give students a chance to see a college that's too far away to visit in the fall. It might also be the only chance a student can get away to see campuses at all, especially if they have a demanding senior year schedule or play a fall sport.
Fall visits are still the best (when the campus is in high gear), but no matter when you go, it's important to make the most of each visit by preparing a list of questions ahead of time that are based on your interests -- and that includes admissions questions. ACT and College Board offer a nice set of starter questions, but you'll want to add these five questions to any list you build:
Does my major affect my chances of admission? Students often gauge their chances of admission on college-wide information, like average GPA and overall percentage of students admitted. But some colleges limit the number of students they'll admit to specific programs, and that could include the major you're interested in. Engineering, honors colleges, and accelerated professional programs are the usual suspects, but the only way you know History is wide open is if you ask -- and if your major is limited, ask what they're looking for.
Do you offer residential programs? Many big colleges know some students thrive best in smaller classes where they can get to know their professors -- and that's why they offer residential programs, or living-learning communities. Often based by major, these programs typically hold classes in the student's residence hall, which is where their professors have their offices, and many offer research opportunities students wouldn't otherwise be able to access. It's the best of a big and small school, all in one campus.
Do you ask what other colleges I'm applying to? Students are often surprised when colleges want to know where else they're applying -- and while most colleges don't ask, it happens often enough that students should be ready for the question. If a college of interest tells you they do, don't be shy; ask them what they use the information for. They may just use it for statistical purposes, but it may play a role in your admissions decision or scholarship package. It's better you know.
Does your net price calculator include merit scholarships? The U.S. government requires all colleges to have a net price calculator on their website (can't find it? Search for "(Name of Your School) Net Price Calculator"), but not every calculator takes the same factors into consideration when giving you a price tag. If you think a college will offer you merit money (check here to see what your college might offer), make sure you know if that's part of the calculation, or bonus money.
Do you consider ability to pay when reviewing my application? Colleges would like to give all students the aid they need to attend, but school budgets just don't allow for that. As a result, some schools will look at the financial need of an applicant as part of the admissions process. This changes from year to year and varies from school to school, so make sure you know what the policy is for each of your colleges--and if you get an answer you don't understand, your very appropriate follow-up question is "what does that mean?"
Ready? Set? Summer!
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