Jun 26, 2010

Campus Visits Top the List of College Search Tools

Tapping the views of students visiting their site, Cappex recently published survey findings from 1300 college-bound seniors who just completed the college search process. Students were asked what helped introduce them to college options, what helped them get a feel for colleges, and what resources aided them in narrowing down their choices.

The answers were right out of a college counseling textbook: campus visits are key to all phases of college search and significantly outweigh in importance online and other resources including parental advice, college fairs, and high school counselors.

Many students start their college search by talking to family and friends, consulting with counselors, and visiting college websites. Once they get basic information, they typically arrange for campus visits.

Even with this sequence of events, Cappex found that visits are by far the single most influential resource for introducing students to colleges and helping them understand what attributes appeal to them. College websites are the second most influential resource followed by parents and generic college search sites.

Cappex also probed how students were able to get a “feel” for specific colleges under consideration. Not surprisingly, campus visits were cited by over 75 percent of the seniors as most influential. Individual college websites followed at 54 percent, and all those glossy mailers from colleges trailed at 37 percent.

It appears that parents suddenly become more important in the process when it comes time to narrow down the colleges to which students apply. Although campus visits still topped the list, parents came in second closely followed by college websites. College admission officers and mail from colleges tied at a distant third.

As far as benefits to be derived from a college visit, getting an “authentic campus experience” is the number one response. There’s nothing better than “experiencing a day walking around a campus and nearby town” to get a feel for the place.

Also important were the ability to understand the geography or size of the campus and the opportunity to see what classes are like, check out housing, experience a typical day on campus, and observe students. Less important outcomes included understanding political views on campus, getting a feel for weather, and checking out food.

But there are some drawbacks to college visits. About 44 percent of respondents indicated that campus visits are hard to manage and pay for. In many cases, it’s just too difficult for students to see all the schools they are considering. Even so, college visits fundamentally help students make decisions throughout the college search process.

To help you plan campus visits, local colleges have arranged summer tours (note most colleges are closed on holidays and holiday weekends):

American University: The admissions “Green Room” is open from 9-5, M-F. Tours and information sessions are offered at least twice per day M-F.
Catholic University: The admissions Office is open M-Th, 9-5 and Fridays until noon. Daily campus visits are scheduled for 10:30 a.m., M-F.
College of William & Mary: Information sessions and tours are offered M-F, at 10:00 and 2:30, through August 19. Select Saturday tours are also available at 10:00.
George Mason University: Information sessions and tours are offered M-Sat. throughout the summer.
George Washington University: Information sessions and tours are scheduled twice daily M-F in July, with an additional session offered on Saturday mornings in August. Interview times are available throughout the day.
Georgetown University: Information sessions followed by tours are held several times during the day M-Sat. Reservations are required.
Goucher College: Information session followed by a tour held M-F, at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. Interviews may be scheduled directly after.
Johns Hopkins University: Tours and information sessions offered twice per day M-F, plus Hopkins "preview events" are available most Saturdays in July.
Loyola University of Maryland: Group information sessions followed by tour are held M-F, 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. Interviews may be scheduled immediately after.
Towson University: Tours and information sessions are offered M-F throughout the summer.
University of Mary Washington: Daily tours and information sessions are scheduled M-F, at 10:30 and 2:00.
University of Maryland: Tours and information sessions offered twice per day M-F, at 11:00 and 2:00.
University of Richmond: Information session followed by tour held M-F, at 9:45 am and 2:15 pm.
University of Virginia: No reservations necessary. Information sessions and tours offered M-F, at 10:00 and 1:00, and Sat. 10:00.
Virginia Commonwealth University: An information session followed by a tour held M-Sat., at 10:30 am, except on holidays and holiday weekends.

For the complete Cappex report and a few good charts, visit the Cappex website.

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