Attending college is a big decision. Here are five good tips for starting your college research early:
- Get a practical sense for what it’s like to be on campus. I always advise prospective students to visit a college before applying. Find the most convenient parking lots and investigate how much it costs to park in certain parking garages. Will you be walking to classes? Find a good campus map and walk around to estimate how long it would take to travel from class to class. Also, know where the shuttle stops are, in case you’ll be carrying a lot of heavy textbooks. Many colleges offer campus tours that reveal great information and details.
- If you already know the subject you’ll be majoring in, call that department and find out if you can schedule an informational interview with a prospective professor in your major. Studies show that students decide what major to declare based on positive experiences with their favorite professors on campus. If a professor is willing to meet with you even before you put in your application, that’s a sign that he/she will be responsive when you actually become a student.
- Contact the Admissions and Records and Financial Aid offices to ask questions early. Many colleges offer in-state and out-of-state residency tuition rates. In most cases, to establish in-state residency, you must start the process a year in advance before attending school. Be sure to check your college’s website for residency rules because some states have more stringent requirements than others. Establishing residency might mean registering your driver’s license, registering to vote, and signing a lease for an apartment in that particular state. Make sure you have paperwork documenting when you began the process of declaring residency—your wallet will thank you later!
- Mark important deadlines on your calendar or track them with a to-do list. Often the deadlines for scholarship applications fall months before the semester actually starts. Do some digging and find out which scholarships are available and note their requirements. Many scholarships require a written essay and letters of recommendation. Start selecting your recommenders early and give them plenty of notice.
- Find out if your college has a career services office. Most, but not all, colleges offer assistance with resumes, networking, and your career decision process. Be sure to visit your career services office to glean important information on how best to market your hard-earned skills before you have your diploma in hand. Also, even if you are busy studying during college, it is important to network and gain valuable contacts for your job hunt later. Start up a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is like a professional version of Facebook and allows you to collect recommendations from colleagues, employers, and fellow employees. You’ll be glad for them later!
Do you have a college visit story to share? Please feel free to comment below.
Happy college hunting,