College visits: What to look for

Visiting a college campus is a critical step in the application process. While background information can be gathered from brochures and websites, there are many things that you can only learn by visiting the school and interacting with students and staff. If possible, try to plan the visit for a time when classes are in session. This will give you a better window into life on campus. There are several important things to consider during these campus visits.

Size
Some students will prefer to be at a large university while others may want a smaller campus. This is often a personal preference and something that will have a large impact on your college experience. A small school can offer a tight-knit feeling of community, while a larger school may offer a wider variety of classes and extracurricular activities.

Location
It is important to choose a school that is in a place you want to live for a few years. There are colleges in the heart of large cities, in rural small towns, and everything in between. It is important to find out about the relationship the college has with the surrounding city or town, whether students are actively involved in the community or tend to stay within the campus. The location of a college will also impact how students spend their free time. Ask if the majority of students stay on campus over the weekends and what options are available for entertainment and activities.

Requirements
The college’s admissions materials will often print the average high school GPA and SAT scores for incoming students. If the numbers aren’t readily available in printed materials, it’s a good idea to ask. Knowing this can help you to prepare through SAT test prep and maintaining a good GPA. It is also important to find out about course requirements on campus. Many schools will require a core curriculum of classes in various subjects, but the number of options available to fulfill these requirements will vary.

Housing
One highlight of the college visit is often seeing the inside of a dorm room. This is a good time to ask whether housing is guaranteed all four years and what options, such as single rooms, suites, and apartments, are available to students.

Majors
If you already know what you plan to major in during college, you will want to learn as much as you can about that specific department. A campus visit will often allow you to sit in on a class or meet with a professor to get a better sense of the school’s program. If you are unsure about your major, look for a school with plenty of options that interest you. Some schools are better choices for students interested in a double major or pursuing a specific minor or concentration in addition to their major. It is a good idea to ask how many students do this and how well this course load would fit into an academic plan.

Looking to spend a semester abroad? What you need to know…

Spending a college semester abroad can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times of your life. Since traveling to a foreign country may not be for everyone, there are many things to consider before packing your bags.
Start by considering the costs and benefits of a semester abroad. Many colleges and universities have formal study abroad programs, but these often come with fairly hefty fees. Others have “exchange” programs with foreign universities, but these can sometimes interfere with obtaining or keeping financial aid. Before making any decisions, ask for a listing of the costs and fees associated with spending a semester abroad.
Next, look at the available course offerings at the foreign university or college. Most study abroad programs will only transfer these classes as elective liberal arts credit; it is very rare to find a school that will give credit for specific classes, especially if those classes are prerequisites for other classes. Speak with your school counselor to see how studying abroad would fit into your academic plan, and at what classes you will need in order to graduate; studying abroad might mean needing to complete an extra semester once you get back. Of course, the opportunity to complete coursework in another country might be worth needing an extra semester to complete your degree. Many future employers look at time spent in a foreign country as similar to completing an internship. Being able to say that you can converse with native speakers of a language, and the contacts and friends you make in a foreign country will stay with you for the rest of your life.
You should also look at the type of support offered by both schools for their exchange students. Is housing provided, or will you be expected to find your own place to live? Does the host school offer a meal plan, or will you be expected to cook your own food? While some students like the security of living with other students, being able to live on your own in a foreign country can be an invaluable experience. Living on your own means learning to cook with local ingredients and will broaden the range of people you meet while traveling. Living on your own also means interacting with the local culture in a way that you cannot do with any other type of study.
The experiences of studying in a foreign country will stay with you forever. A number of professionals in the workforce are still in contact with the friends they made while studying abroad. One professor in her 50s still regularly exchanges e-mails and gifts with the friends she made while traveling as part of a class while earning her Bachelor’s degree. When talking about her experience she has said; “My friend also teaches at a local university in her country, and since we’re in similar fields, we often exchange ideas for papers. We’ve even worked together on a few of them over the years.” Other students use their foreign travel experience to get interviews with multi-national companies after they graduate.  Whatever you choose to do with the experience, your time spent abroad is something that will stay with you for a lifetime.

10 Tips for Surviving Your First Year in College

Attending college might be portrayed as classes and partying, but the truth is that your first year means living on your own. These ten tips will help you survive your first year in college successfully.

First of all, go to class. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to get distracted or to think you don’t need to go. Attendance helps your grade, and when the professor learns to recognize that you attend regularly, he or she might be more inclined to let it slip when you finally miss a day.

Secondly, be honest with your roommate. Your first year in college will involve living with one or more new people, and being honest will end up paying off when finals roll around. If you state early on that you’re a night owl, you won’t have to deal with complaints that you’re up too late.

Next, be sociable but responsible. There will be lots of events, academic and social, and you’ll get to interact with many people. Making responsible choices means you won’t earn yourself a reputation that will follow you for the rest of your time at college.

Also, understand the importance of studying. Some classes may be easy, but others will require extra time and effort. Setting aside time daily to study areas that need improvement will help you do better in class and prepare you for the rest of your academic career.

A fifth tip for surviving your first year in college is to keep a planner. Usually professors will issue a syllabus, but it is common for them to change assignments and due dates. Even if you have an excellent memory, mapping out your assignments in writing will improve your time management.

Next, ask lots of questions. This goes for classroom situations and when you have general questions about college life. Remember, nearly everyone around you has gotten lost or confused before, so there’s no reason to shy away from asking for help when it’s needed.

Tip number seven is to set a sleep schedule. You could have class early in the morning one day, and then the late afternoon the next. While the temptation might exist to stay up late or nap, you’ll perform better if you have a fairly regular sleep schedule. Professors will certainly notice if you sleep in class!

Next, make smart choices about your diet. Dining halls, cafeterias, restaurants, and delivery are all options, but pizza and soda every night will wreak havoc on your body. It’s fine to indulge now and then, being away from home, but keep yourself in check.

Tip number nine is to know your academic requirements. Many colleges have intense general education programs for incoming students, so staying on top of these and thinking ahead about your schedule will help you during registration.

Finally, be prepared to experience new things. Even if you’re going to a local college, you will be exposed to new ideas and new experiences every day, and keeping a positive outlook is essential.


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