Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, May 01, 2014 @ 11:47 AM

In part three of our series about college visits, we share questions to ask and tips to make it a memorable day.

 A Mother’s Confession – My husband and I had a far better time on the college tours than my son did. That may have been because with every question I asked, he sank deeper and deeper into his chair! Even though you may be thrilled about the next stage in your child’s life, don’t be surprised if your student isn’t as motivated as you are about these visits.

However, this is the time to ask important questions – for you and for your child.  Whether you’re footing the bill, or your student is taking out loans, it’s a costly venture. Don’t be shy about getting as much information as possible. 

In the Beginning

College tours usually begin with a general presentation in a classroom or lecture hallUniversity of Tampa on campus. If your child is not one to appreciate your eager quest for knowledge, tell him or her to sit in the back and pretend they don’t know you. Many of your basic questions will probably be addressed in this presentation. However, I always had to raise my hand. I just couldn’t help myself. Whether it was about campus security, alcohol awareness, support for out-of-state students, or just some question that my son thought was totally lame, I needed answers to calm my parental anxiety. I think it was part of the process of letting go. I never let his embarrassment bother me. I embraced it.

After the general presentation, you will be assigned to a tour guide – usually a college student.
Depending on how groups are arranged, you could ask for a student with interests similar to those of your child. That way, you can ask specific questions as you walk through campus. The tour will usually hit the highlights of the university – a few specific buildings where classes are held, the university center, the library, the quad or field where students hang out between classes, the bookstore, maybe the recreational center, and finally at least one dorm or dining hall.

You won’t see everything the school has to offer on your tour. However, use this opportunity to ask to see things “not” on the tour. For example, if your child is a swimmer, ask to see the pool, or meet with a coach. If your future college student excels in a particular subject, ask if there’s a chance you can meet with teachers or sit in on a class.

My son was interested in playing club water polo at LSU. He contacted the club's president via e-mail. While we weren’t able to meet with him that day, we were able to visit where they practiced and played - venues not on the scheduled tour.

“The better my visit was, the more I wanted to go there,” said Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University. “Whether it was the information session, or the person who gave the tour, I think it drastically impacted what I eventually ended up deciding.”

Christine Scalise, a Chicago mother of three teenage boys, agrees. She found her tour of the University of Tampa welcoming and very informative. “Going on tour and seeing the school helped make the decision.”

Reading Assignments

As you walk through campus, take note of the many school publications, flyers, etc. This is great material to review when you are waiting to meet with counselors, financial aid, or while you’re taking a coffee break. It’s also great information to look through when you return home.

“We took all relevant brochures and we picked up campus newspapers,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a high school junior.  “You can learn a lot from the campus publications. They provide insight into what the kids are talking about or what the campus is like. Even the ads can give you a snapshot of what life is like at school.”

Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network, also suggests looking at local publications near the school, as well as relevant academic publications to gauge how the school's reputation is relative to the greater population in the city.

Take A Good Look

Encourage your son or daughter to actually look at the university students. Do they seem happy and engaged? Are they polite and informative? Give your kids time to speak with students on their own. Interaction with them can provide a wealth of information. 

Katie McKnight brought her daughter, Ellie, and two of her friends to visit William & Mary.college tours Once the girls finished their interviews and had lunch, she told them it was time for them to explore - without her! 

Dr. McKnight is a college professor of secondary education/literacy for National Louis University in Chicago. "I think it's important for students to explore a campus on their own without parents hovering over them at all times. They need to talk to other students, listen to the campus, and observe. My daughter, not me, needs to decide if a particular college is the right fit."

Mom Tips

Whether your future college student is excited or not, embrace the day. Yes, it’s about them, but it’s about you too. You’ve put in a long 16-18 years raising this wonderful teenager. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this occasion.

No matter what your teenager says or does, just smile at them with that, “I love you and am so proud of you look.” They can’t compete with that. But, remember, even though it’s exciting, it’s still stressful for them. 

Next, wear comfortable shoes, and bring the following:

1. Sweater or sweatshirt

2. Small backpack or bag

3. Bottle of water

4. Pen and small notebook

5. Camera

6. Umbrella

7. Sunscreen

You could be on your feet for an hour or two depending on the size of the campus. Some larger universities may have shuttles, but you will still need to walk between certain areas. Remember, especially for southern schools – it may be warm and sunny outside, but airconditioning inside can feel like a walk-in cooler. You can freeze just waiting for the presentation to begin. A bottle of water comes in handy when you can’t leave the group to get something to drink.

Stash some sunscreen, a hat and even an umbrella in the car. The bookstore usually sells inexpensive rain ponchos if you get caught in a sudden storm. Be prepared for any weather. You spent a lot of money getting there and the tour goes on no matter what.  Don’t forget that this is really a wonderful milestone in your child’s life and yours. Take some pictures!

“It was good to have that one-on-one time,” said Scalise. “We could really discuss the pros and cons of going away. It helps the kids know what to do and it’s very comforting to the parents as well."

Relax. It’s Just A Few Questions!

The one thing I learned about my son is that he doesn’t like to ask questions. And, he doesn’t like his mother to do it either. If your child is embarrassed by your thoughtful and intelligent questions, seize the opportunity to tell them what they often tell you – “Relax!”  Assure them that no one at orientation will say – “Oh, you’re that boy with the mom who asked all the silly questions on the tour!”

So here’s a sampling of the questions that made my son cringe and move to the back row. 

1. How hard is it to get the classes you want? For example, if you need to take specific classes to graduate – are they only offered in the spring? If this is the case, and you can’t get in to the class, it may take you longer to graduate.

2. How big are the classes? Ask different students how many kids are in their largesst class and how many are in their smallest class.

3. What percentages of courses do professors teach versus teaching assistants? It’s normal for some classes or labs to be taught by TA’s, but when you’re shelling out all that tuition money or your child is taking on huge loans, you don’t want all of their classes taught by TA’s.

4. What is the student to professor ratio?

5. Ask about the student population – percentage of males vs. females, locals vs. out-of-state, diversity, etc.

6. What sort of transportation do they offer if your student does not have a car?

7. How many years of on-campus housing are guaranteed? Is it required?

8. When are scholarship deadlines?

9. What is the acceptance rate?

10. What are the school’s campus safety initiatives? What measures do they take regarding safety, weather emergencies, etc.?

11. Do they have an alert system? Many schools now have text alert systems. 

12. Ask about the facilities. What types of services do they offer – health center, recreation center, counseling, etc.?

13. Do they require alcohol/drug awareness seminars?

14. Do they offer career services?

15. What will be the return on investment by going to your school?

My last tip – when the tour is over, have your teenager remove her headphones and do your best to engage her in a conversation about what she liked and didn't like.

McKnight's daughter surprised her. Despite their visits to Dartmouth, Emory, and William & Mary, Ellie decided to attend Brandeis University, a school they did not visit until she was admitted and had already accepted the offer. McKnight asked Ellie if she was sure she wanted to accept before visiting the campus. "Yes," said Ellie. "I've been researching, visiting, and learning about colleges for the last year. I know what I want and even though I haven't visited Brandeis, it has what I want."

McKnight doesn't think her daughter would've been so resolute in committing to a college she had not visited if she hadn't already been on a tour. "College is about furthering one's individual identity and I think the visit is one of those first opportunities to to do so."

Please share your college tour experiences with us. What are your most important questions? 

Photo credits: Christine Scalise and Katie McKnight

Check out Part 1 and 2 of our series -

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Scheduling College Tours? Begin With Basic Questions. 

 

 

 

 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, graduates, college admissions, college applications, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, career, alternative spring breaks

Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

Reflection in life, especially when positive, is almost always beneficial. The act of reflection can increase feelings of self-perception personal purpose, and community awareness, as well as increase understanding as to one's role in the greater community. We would like to share with you the importance of reflection on service experiences and offer some insight for both faculty and students on how to do service reflections.  Reflection is an integral component of volunteer service.

While a student is volunteering, the service experience can become more meaningful through constant questioning of motivations, asking why one is helping, and keeping those ideas at the forefront of their mind. A student may maintain their motivation to help by keeping track of both the work they do, as well as their initial and ongoing reactions to their service activities. Reflection before, during, and after a service experience is key, to set goals, and to remember and document observations, emotions, and activities. The most important reflection may come after when the student connects their individual experience to the bigger picture, whether it’s a wider community or national/international issue, cultural or environmental cause, or institutional motive. With reflection and further research, a student will gain deeper understanding of oneself, their community, and society. The more one reflects on their volunteer experiences, the more one knows what they like, dislike, and can identify personal strengths. Additionally, students can then use their service reflections to decide how to channel their experiences into greater action or next steps, which can be beneficial both for the individual (e.g., explore new passions or possible career choices) and the community (e.g., organizing one river clean-up to be an ongoing project with other students and community members in the area). 

How to do Service Reflections: 

For students volunteering, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. As you begin to look back on your work, here are some helpful ways to take stock and connect to the bigger picture. 

Get started with three easy questions:

What? So what? and Now what? These questions are commonly paired with community service to help participants think about how to channel their experiences into action or next steps. Answer them on your own or with other volunteers. 

What? 

How would you describe the actual work you’ve been doing? What different types of situations have you been involved in and learned from? Whether it’s playing with kids or talking to an elderly person or filing hospital records, describe your day-to-day work. 

So What? 

What did these actions mean? Who did they impact? How did they impact you? How did they affect the community you worked with? How did they contribute to the larger impact your organization (or you) is making? 

Now what? 

Now that you’ve done your service, what are you going to do next? Are there other channels of involvement? What else would you like to know about your site or issue? How will you take this experience and put it to use helping others? What ripple effect will your experiences make for yourself and others? 

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

Reflection is a key component of service learning in and out of the classroom. It can be accomplished in many different avenues that students can choose for themselves to fit their learning and creative styles. Encourage students to explore these styles and decide how they would like to record and reflect on their volunteer experience

Each time a student volunteers, it is beneficial to take a few minutes to make notes about what they did, what they learned, and how the experience impacted them. These notes will be useful for future reflecting on experiences as well as for possible use in creating a final presentation for a class. NobleHour has an work reflection tool for students exactly for this purpose.  

Engaging in conversation with others (e.g., friends, professors, family) to explain what the student has been doing and why it is important to them is another way to reflect. With a volunteer supervisor’s permission, a student may be able to take photos and document their adventures in service (there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and use these visuals later for reflection and sharing. NobleHour enables students to share their photos, videos, and reflections using the Contribute and Share tool.  Faculty members should encourage student reflection.

One of the main goals of service learning is that students will continue or expand upon their community service even after the final project is done. If students are interested in learning more about their cause or organization, people at the volunteer site are great resources for other contacts and groups that are doing similar work and organizing similar events. 

To maximize the service learning curriculum, components of reflection throughout the semester for students should be interspersed in the syllabus. Class discussion, journal entry writing, online posts, article critiques on surrounding service topics, and a final demonstration or project of the students’ volunteer experiences are wonderful and diverse ways to get students engaged and thinking about their experiences.  

Teachers can guide students' reflection processes in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: discussion, role play, and journaling

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

  • Describe what happened.
  • Examine the difference made.
  • Discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • Place experience in a larger contect.
  • Consider project improvements.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Identify questions.
  • Encourage comments from partners and recipients.
  • Receive feedback.

To fulfill one of her global health minor requirements in college, Liz took a course called Core Issues in Global Health: Community Health Practice for Refugees. The professor employed a Community Based Service Learning syllabus guideline which included student-led discussions, lectures, presentations, several community guest speakers, papers, posters, and a community engagement project. The class concluded with each student creating a material (paper, art, video, or article) that described their community refugee experience and also would benefit the organization. The professor made it a class requirement to get out into the surrounding community and see for themselves the information they learned about. Liz's work as an after school tutor with Fugee’s Family outside of Emory every week for one semester created meaning for the statistics and health disparities they were learning about for refugee populations in America. She is now able to look back over her paper and final project, and remember how engaged she felt both in class and with the young refugee soccer players at the Fugee’s school house. 

Service learning and service reflections are valuable student and teacher tools and provide numerous opportunities for personal growth and community service. The more these ideas and actions are incorporated into classrooms, from K-12 to higher education, the better students, communities, and the world will be.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the power of volunteering in diverse environments and with diverse people.

 

"Writing in the Rapids" by Julie Jordan Scott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, abroad, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, high school, community service, engaged learning, learning strategies, community connections, alternative spring breaks, reflection

Community Service: Helping Students Understand the Benefits

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Community Service 

Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan come together again to help lessen the disconnect between one-time Service Plunges (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and long-term community service and involvement. Given that hundreds of thousands of Americans participated in service on MLK day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” including many college students across the nation, we thought it might be helpful to discuss some tips and strategies for how to leverage the enthusiasm of such events. 

Helping students to understand the benefits of community service can be a great way to sustain their involvement. Community engagement has has the potential for deep reciprocal benefits as students learn to create positive change in the world, and make personal changes in the process.

For example, when I was in high school, I had volunteer experience that was so impactful that it led to my career choice. When I was 17 years old, a junior in high school, I thought I wanted to go into sports medicine or be a big time athletic trainer. In order to gain more service experience and with my mother’s encouragement, I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church (that I had been to before but was not a member of) for spring break. Every year, the church organizes a Spring Break Youth Medical Mission and allows anyone in the community interested to come on the trip as long as there is room. I had never been out of the country nor had any health care experience, and had no idea what to expect. We stayed in Matagalpa, Nicaragua and traveled one to three hours daily to various rural communities to set up a daily, mobile clinic that consisted of a triage area, doctor and patient tables, pharmacy, and dental clinic. Fortunately, one of my high school soccer teammates was on the trip with me. We were able to bring down soccer balls and play with the kids at the end of each clinic day.

Throughout the week, I practiced my Spanish in triage, shadowed and assisted physicians during their patient interviews, sorted and collected prescriptions in the pharmacy, and witnessed universal gestures of graciousness that transcended language and cultural barriers. The physicians, nurses, and pharmacists on the team were incredible people and role models. They encouraged all the young people to pursue their dreams always with serving others in mind, as well as opened my eyes to the wonders of medicine. When I returned home I told my parents, “I’m going to be a physician in the United States for six months and practice medicine in a developing country the other six months.” That one week in Nicaragua changed my life. It gave me perspective and knowledge about how the majority of the world lives, in poverty without access to essential resources, not only to improve their well-being, but even just to survive. I realized how fortunate I was for my family, my access to education, and to live in the United States. I felt so energized and open at the end of the week, and determined to be a doctor so I could have experiences like that for the rest of my life and hopefully improve the well-being of many diverse people.

The feelings that I experienced while helping people in a healthcare setting seemed almost addictive, I became compelled to want to do more service and to devote my professional career to serving others. Since that first trip, I have been on four medical service trips to Central America and highly recommend any type of service trip (Medical, Construction, Public Health, Education, Environmental, Microfinance, Human Rights, Water) to a developing country to all students. Week-long service trips take volunteering to the next level, in fact, in our next post, we will discuss Spring Break Service Trips (also known as “alternative Spring Breaks”), specifically focusing on encouraging students to get involved and helping them to prepare for these potentially life-changing experiences.

One of the most effective approaches to transforming one-time-volunteers into students-committed-to-service is through reflection. In future posts we will be talking about the process of service reflection in much more detail. Today, though, we'd like to offer three quick tips for faculty to share with service-plunge students, in hopes of leading to their experiencing the same compelling draw towards service, as we've had (and we assume many of you have had as well, as that's likely a big part of why you are involved in service learning as part of your career).

  1. Each time you volunteer, take a few minutes to make notes about what you did, what you learned, and how the experience impacted you. This can be done on scraps of paper, in a personal journal, on your blog (if you have one), posted on social media sites (like Facebook), and NobleHour even has a “journal” feature for students to record their reflections.
  2. Engage in conversation with others to explain what you’ve been doing and why it’s important.  If you are in to photography, ask your supervisor if it’s okay for you to take photos while volunteering (as there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and if permitted, enjoy documenting your adventures in service. Again, if you are given permission, you may have fun posting these photos on your own website or blog, on a social media site (like Instagram), or using the “share” tool in NobleHour.
  3. Seek to learn more! Ask people at your volunteer site or service learning faculty at your school about opportunities for you to do similar work-- seek them out and get to know the people involved (attend events, set up informational interviews, and take the leap to attend other service activities).

For more information about how to help students to transform from participants of a one-time service plunge into long-term committed volunteers, leading lives of service, can be found in Don’t Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering and Community Service and by continuing to read our blog. Please be on the lookout for our next post discussing how to help students get involved in and prepare for Spring Break Service Trips.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, higher ed, engagement, community service, MLK Day, MLK Day of Service, community service programs, higher education, alternative spring breaks

Subscribe via E-mail

Latest Posts

Need help measuring volunteer initiatives? Learn more about NobleHour

Posts by category

Follow Me