Second of 10 Most Important Factors for Success in College Admission And Beyond (Series)
Number TWO: Visit Colleges To Identify Best-Fit Undergraduate Programs and Overcome Brand Names
In the first post of this series, I emphasized the importance of finding and choosing the student’s best-fit colleges. One way to identify the best fit colleges is through organized, objective college visits. A first-hand campus visit is the most important tool for students and their parents to gain perspective regarding what they like and hope for at the undergraduate program the student will attend.
Yes, focus should be placed on understanding and finding the best undergraduate program. Conversely, I’ve seen that, both in the U.S. and internationally, most parents are following the 70s and 80s line of thinking about colleges and college brands, unaware that this is actually a better guide for choosing a graduate school or program. Many famous colleges (e.g., UCLA, U of Michigan, U of Minnesota, U of Wisconsin, U of Illinois, U of Washington) are among the top 50 best graduate programs. Their fame stems from ground-breaking research, which is in part achieved by admitting students who graduated from their best-fit undergraduate colleges and learned to think creatively and critically – “outside of the box.”
But attending such universities where large classes taught by TAs are standard does nothing to mentor the young undergraduate student. It doesn’t nurture or guide their interests and curiosities to discover their academic or career paths. It doesn’t help them connect with their passions.
So one effective way for families to grasp this important concept and identify the student’s best-fit colleges is to visit the schools. Virtual tours? Not enough; a movie clip doesn’t truly provide the vital information needed to consider the school, nor does it justify the burden of a $150k – $240k price tag.
Here is a short list of what to do and look for on your college visit:
- Go to the information session and sit through the whole thing. Listen to find to find out what priority is given to undergraduate school.
- Take the campus tour, and find out how accessible the spotless labs are to undergraduate students.
- Make time to speak with the students and faculty if possible.
- What percent of FRESHMAN and SOPHOMORE classes are taught by PHD professors?
- Beyond the student/faculty ratio, what are FRESHMAN class sizes? The student/faculty ratio can be misleading because it includes professors who write/publish, research, are on sabbatical, and who focus on graduate school.
- What is the campus food like, and what are the meal-plan?
- What’s the social scene like? Is it dominated by specific groups such as sororities/fraternities; does a certain mentality pervade?
- What is the diversity and the makeup of the current freshman class?
- What kinds of activities are available?
We provide detailed information and evaluation tools to help families get the facts when they visit colleges. Identifying and attending a best-fit undergraduate program helps the student gain admission to top graduate schools and receive more than their share grants and assistantships, even for social science graduate programs.
PS: Don’t forget to pick up business cards on your visits, too, so you’ll have a real, live contact if you have a question about admission or financial aid.