Please don’t skip the info session! I know what you’re thinking, “After attending a half dozen on-campus presentations they all begin to sound the same and a lot like the ‘Wah Wah’ teacher’s voice on Charlie Brown.” But, take it from me opting out of the info session is a big mistake. Colleges provide important, school specific information during these meetings. It’s also a great opportunity to ask admission counselors questions.
After visiting more than 150 college campuses, I still make time to attend these general information sessions whenever I can. Nothing can replace the college visit and the opportunity to see and hear for yourself what’s happening on campus. I listen with a discriminating ear to discern the unique opportunities and offerings that set each school apart. And in doing so, I can make educated, up-to-date recommendations to my students and their families.
Before you head out, it is important to spend some time on the college websites and understand the college terminology. Here are just a few terms you should know.
Common Core Curriculum Regardless of major, each student is required to complete a set of common general education courses. All students read the same texts and discuss the same issues at the same time. Columbia is known for its Common Core.
Open Curriculum No prescribed general curriculum is required except a few writing and/or quantitative requirements in addition to the student’s concentration requirement. Instead, the student’s personal interests drive the student’s course selections. Brown (the first to adopt an open curriculum), Amherst, Wesleyan, and Hamilton have open curriculums.
Co-op Programs The student alternates between semesters of classroom instruction and full-time employment that is related to his/her major or career interests. Northeastern, Drexel and R.I.T. have standout co-op program options.
Guaranteed Housing Some schools guarantee housing all four years while others only have enough housing for freshmen. Understand the housing options and its availability to all students. Presently, USC only guarantees housing for freshmen.
Greek Life The social life on some campuses revolves around fraternity and sorority events. Know what percentage of the student body joins fraternities and sororities. Lehigh, Washington and Lee and SMU have Greek centric campuses.
Service-Minded Know if the school has a strong community service culture. Is alternate spring break available? Is alternate spring break a hot ticket (At St. Joe’s in Philly it sells out in an hour), or is it an option that two-dozen students attend?
Meet Full Demonstrated Need Does the school award a financial aid package that meets the gap between the total college cost and the family’s ability to pay? Ivies and Franklin and Marshall are examples of schools that meet full demonstrated need.
Merit Aid Does the school offer financial awards to students based on achievement or talents regardless of their ability to pay? If so, what percentage of accepted students receive merit-based aid? Chapman and Elon are just a few examples.
Merit Aid Process Are all students reviewed for merit aid or is there a separate application process? Some schools have a combination of both. At Northeastern all students submitting an admissions application are reviewed for merit aid.
Now that I got your attention, register for those campus tours and information sessions. And once you get to campus, ask the admissions counselors and tour guides thoughtful questions. That’s what they’re there for, and there’s an added bonus too. It shows demonstrated interest!
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