Aug 3, 2011

Campus Visits Top the List

Not long ago, Cappex tapped the views of 1300 college-bound seniors who already 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 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.

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 Welcome Center is open from 9-5, M-F. Tours and information sessions are offered at least once per day M-F.
Catholic University: Daily information sessions are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 pm, M-F (excluding Memorial Day through Independence Day). A personal interview can be scheduled before the information session or later the same day.
College of William & Mary: Information sessions and tours are offered M-F, at 10:00 and 2:30 (excluding August 15-19).
George Mason University: Information sessions and tours are conducted throughout the year, M-F, at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm and on Saturdays at 10:00 am and 11:30 am.
George Washington University: Information sessions and tours are scheduled twice daily M-F, at both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon Campuses. 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 are offered M-F.
Loyola University of Maryland: Group information sessions followed by tour are held M-F, 9:15 am and 1:15 pm. Interviews may be scheduled immediately after.
Towson University: Campus tours begin 9:30 and 12:30, M-F.
University of Mary Washington: Daily tours and information sessions are scheduled M-F, at 10:30 and 2:00.
University of Maryland: Campus tours are offered twice per day M-F, at 11:00 and 2:00. Information sessions are available on a reservation only basis.
University of Richmond: Information session followed by tour held M-F, at 9:45 am and 2:15 pm.
University of Virginia: Campus tours are offered M-F, at 11:00 and 2:40, and on Saturday at 11:00. Information sessions are offered M-F at 10:00 and 1:00 (peak season only).
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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