As I type these words, I am sitting in a car with my family, headed to a college town over four hours away so our senior daughter can experience her first official college campus visit. It feels surreal. I know everyone said the time would go fast, but when I was spending my days and nights changing diapers, nursing infants, and trying my best to maintain decent nap and sleep schedules — it sure didn’t always feel that way.
But the words were spoken in love and wisdom from those who had gone before me. And while it may not have felt like their words could be true — they most definitely were. Time does go fast. And now, here we are.
And, oh boy, can it feel overwhelming. If you have found your head swimming with thoughts of scholarships, application deadlines, ACT and SAT scores, tuition costs and more, know you aren’t alone. So many of us are scratching our heads along with you.
As I sit here with the expanse of highway stretching out before me, I am reminded of why a college visit can be so beneficial. Tomorrow, I anticipate many of our questions will be answered. As we stroll the campus, tour the classroom and dorms, and get a chance to talk with professors and students, we will get a clearer picture of all the university has to offer and what it takes to be considered for admission.
But I am just a mom in a minivan headed down the highway with a head full of thoughts and a heart full of emotions. What you need is to hear from a professional. So, I talked to Laura Lowder, senior admission counselor with Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, who has taken the time to answer questions and provide some tips to help you have a successful and great college campus visit.
What tips do you have for students who are preparing to go on college visits?
Do not rush. Utilize your time. Attend a class, meet with faculty and current students. Also, explore the city that the university is located in.
What should students consider when choosing schools to visit?
Make a list of the top three things that are important to you in a university and find institutions that meet those needs. Utilize websites to find the schools that offer what you want. There are more than 4,000 institutions to choose from. Visit small, medium and large institutions to find the right fit.
Are online visits beneficial if students can’t visit in-person?
They are helpful in providing basic information, but if it’s possible for you to go in-person, I highly encourage an on campus visit to find that right fit.
Is there anything else you would like parents and students to know?
Start early. Have an open mind when visiting an institution. Visit as many schools of interest that you can. Take notes and enjoy the process.
It may feel overwhelming at times, but there are a lot of resources available to help those of us who are navigating the college application process for the first time. Take deep breaths, mom and dad — your baby will do great. Let’s eat this elephant one bite at a time. We’ve got this!