October is one of the best times to make a campus visit if you’re a high school senior, as you start to get serious about your college choices. I’m a parent with a high school senior who’s wrestling with that decision right now.
With that in mind, I checked with a couple of friends who have both worked as admissions counselors at the collegiate level, for some of their best advice about visiting a campus.
Locating an InterVarsity Chapter
Opportunities for Christian fellowship at college are a big concern for many parents. Although InterVarsity has chapters at a lot of schools – around 560 right now – there are schools that do not have InterVarsity. How to find out?
Go to the Find a Chapter map on our website and click on the state where a prospective school is located, then look for its name on the list. If it’s listed, you can click on a link to send an email to a Campus Staff Member to make contact and ask questions about when they meet and other concerns. You may be able to time your visit so that you can attend a chapter’s Large Group meeting, or maybe a dorm Bible study.
Other Christian Fellowship
Here are some additional options that may provide information on Christian fellowship on campus:
Search a school’s website for Christian groups listed among campus organizations.
Try Facebook for information on Christian groups on campus
Ask your church’s youth group leaders if they know of any youth group alumni who are now attending college and may be involved in a Christian group on the campus.
Use the internet to research churches around the campus area and see if they offer ministry to college students.
Make the Most of Your Visit
What else can you accomplish during a campus visit? Here’s what my friend Kurt suggested:
1. It’s important to stay in the dorm and visit a class if at all possible to get a true sense for what that college is like.
2. Don’t be wooed by superficial factors or criteria that are likely to change as you grow and mature in the next four to six years. What exactly these criteria are will vary depending on the individual. Make a list of criteria that’s important to you and prioritize. What are the few things that absolutely have to be true about the college you’ll choose to attend? What can you be flexible on? No college is perfect, but you’ll want to make sure you get a good sense of the factors that are most important to you.
3. Don’t let finances dictate too much at this stage. Colleges vary a lot on affordability, value, and financial aids. Get as much financial information as possible, but understand that the right college for you isn’t always the cheapest one, or the most expensive.
4. Try to spend some time with whoever will likely read your application first. Face time can be a great way to prepare that person for the actual reading of your application. But don’t meet if you don’t have anything to say or ask. Just seeing you won’t make any difference unless the college has good looks as a part of the admissions criteria.
5. Don’t overbook. College visits are exhausting. I wouldn’t advise visiting more than one college per day.
6. Have fun, hang out, and meet people. This will give you a sense for what there is to do at that college when you’re not studying. But more importantly, it’ll build a memory which will make it easier to distinguish that college from the other ones you’re visiting.
7. Pray. Pray. And pray some more. Picking a college is one of those decisions in life that you make without really knowing what you’re getting into. Pray for guidance and God will give it. Sometimes, though, there are many right choices and God lets you choose. In that case, go with whoever has the best food.
Another friend and his son visited one example of three different types of schools to help with their selection process: a large state university, a large private university, and a small liberal arts college.
Campus visits are not absolutely necessary, but they can help when you’re trying to make a choice from the many options available. And visits can be done at times other than October.