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What to Look For in a College Visit | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

What to Look For in a College Visit

We’re in Round Two of the College Tour Season. After a notably bad experience visiting one prospective college, I was thankful I had had good experiences beforehand to balance out the bad one. Had that bad experience been my first experience as a parent visiting a college with my child, I would have been utterly demoralized.

Prior to that experience, all of my focus had been on preparing my kids for college visits. Now, I realize it’s a two-way process. When you visit prospective colleges with your teens, you need to prepare your teen first with homework about the school and also what accomplishments and potential your teen brings to the table.

That visit is also an opportunity to discern whether or not the school is a good fit. We have been fortunate to meet several outstanding faculty members who understand the fine art of recruiting new students. The best recruiters have moved beyond the Willie Loman-style of selling where the sales person sells at a prospect and fails to listen to the customer.

Though students may change majors, make sure you have at least one 1:1 meeting with faculty members in their interest area. This will give you a feel for how that department or institution treats individual students. In an era when families are increasingly aware of the expense of higher education, the good recruiters know how to show the value they add to a student’s education.  They know to build a relationship and learn about prospective students first.

Here are things the good recruiters do:

  1. Ask questions.  Good recruiters will try to figure out what makes you tick and what makes you unique. They will seek information on your accomplishments, interests, studies, and work ethic. As they learn about you, they will offer ways that their program is a good fit for you.
  2. Know answers. Good recruiters should be able to give specific examples of where students have done internships and where their graduates are working. They should be able to list specific companies where their graduates work. If they can’t, that means either their graduates aren’t getting good jobs or the recruiter is too distant from students to know where they get hired. If their students participate in undergraduate research, they should be able to mention the specific areas their students research. If their students go on to graduate school, they should be able to mention specific schools as well as fellowships and awards those students have won.
  3. Show interest. Good faculty members like at least some of the students they teach. They care about them. They should begin to demonstrate their interest in their students in that first recruitment meeting.

If you meet with a faculty member who shows no interest in what your student brings to the recruitment table, run – don’t walk from that school choice. The faculty member who doesn’t care about the potential of future students most likely doesn’t care about the ones currently being taught. Don’t waste your time or energy on those recruiters.

My teen had the most insightful comment after our bad experience, “Their program has lost half to 3/4 of their students. After 15 minutes there, I knew why.” When a student has a bad feeling in a recruitment meeting, it’s a good sign that’s the wrong fit for a college education.

When Michelangelo sculpted great works of art, he said he saw an angel in the marble and brought it to the forefront. The greatest teachers – the ones who inspire their students to reach the greatest heights – do the same thing. They see potential in students and work to make the most of what they see.

You will know which recruiters see the most potential in your kids. You will know which ones generate excitement and inspire your kids.

With a good fit, after finding teachers and recruiters who inspire greatness, the investment in a college education will be time and money well spent.


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