By Guest Blogger Betty Flythe, Westchester Country Day School College Placement Advisor

Exploring one’s college options can be a daunting task, one that can take many hours of research and exploration.  With technology at their fingertips, students often overlook or underestimate the importance and value of face-to-face contact.  There are three such opportunities that high school students and their families should consider as they approach the college search – college fairs, visits with college representatives at the high school, and campus visits.  Making the most of these experiences requires some prior planning and thought, but the rewards for doing one’s homework are great and may uncover a previously undiscovered and viable college choice.

Each fall regional college fairs take place in both Greensboro and Winston-Salem.  Then in the spring a college fair of national proportions takes place in Charlotte and Raleigh.  All of these fairs provide opportunities for students to learn more about individual colleges and to meet face-to-face with representatives of these institutions.  Often college representatives will jot down impressions of specific students once those students leave their table, so making a good impression can be very important.   Consider the following suggestions when attending a college fair:

  • Take to the fair a sheet of address labels showing your name, address, high school, email address, year of graduation, and area of interest.  Use these labels in lieu of completing an information card.
  • Ditch your friends at the door when you arrive.  You will make a better impression on a college representative if you don’t seem to be treating this outing as a social event.
  • Ignore your cell phone when talking to a representative.
  • Take with you a list of questions to ask, including the following:
    • How do you compute GPA?
    • Does your college have a study abroad program?
    • What is the average size of classes traditionally taken by freshmen?
    • In what range do the middle 50% of accepted students fall relative to their SAT scores?
    • Who reads applications from our area?  How many times is each application read?
    • What is the geographical representation of your school’s student body?
    • What is the academic advising program at your school like?
    • Does your school have opportunities for student research or internships?
    • What is the academic profile of students who historically receive scholarships to your school?

Campus visits can also be extremely important in choosing colleges that fit.  Students often hear their college counselor say that a visit to a college campus, complete with campus tour and information session, will invoke in both the parent and the student an almost visceral response and that they should trust their instincts.  There are, however, a few suggestions that might make that campus visit even more revealing.  Again, planning ahead is crucial.   It is important that the admissions office have a record of the visit.  Often a student’s interest level enters in to the admissions decision, so it is critical that the student demonstrate a high level of interest through a visit to campus, especially for the very selective schools and those that are either of a small or medium size.  Once on campus, consider investigating the following:

  • Visit classrooms, labs, libraries, fitness facilities, and studios.
  • Check out the dorm rooms and other accommodations.
  • Eat the food.
  • Talk to students.
  • Investigate campus surroundings.
  • Investigate campus safety records.
  • Visit the department in which you are most interested.
  • Ask what students typically do on weekends.
  • Explore volunteer opportunities.
  • Investigate academic support options.
  • Ask about intramural, club, and varsity sports and any other extra- curricular activities that interest you.

Doing one’s homework in the college search process can be time-consuming, but the rewards are great.  Students should take advantage of visits college representatives make to their high schools, attend college fairs, and visit a variety of college campuses.  Choosing a college that fits one’s needs and interests has life-long implications, so students and their families should take researching college choices seriously.

Westchester Country Day School is a Pre-K-12 college-preparatory school located in High Point which boasts 100% college placement for graduating seniors.

*Sponsored by Westchester Country Day School