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Making the most of a college visit

Selecting a college can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for a high school student. There is quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion when picking a college, and seemingly countless questions that need answering.

According to Justin Rogers, director of undergraduate admissions at Canisius College in Buffalo, campus visits are an essential part of the decision-making process.

Visits give students an opportunity to meet the administration staff, members of the faculty and students. A visit also enables a prospective student to learn about student groups and organizations, get a sense of the culture of the campus and get help with financial aid, he said.

Rogers recommended that, if possible, a student arrange for a personalized tour of a campus.

“An open house is for everyone, but a tour is personalized,” he said. “And you should definitely visit a place that best fits you.”

Before attending an open house or taking a tour, Rogers recommended that students prepare by thinking about their major interests when it comes to the college experience.

“Cross off what you don’t like, and make sure it’s an academic fit,” he said. “Ask yourself: ‘Do I have a chance here?’ ”

On a campus visit, students should “keep an open mind; don’t stress,” Rogers said. “Take pictures if necessary. Have a mindset where you can envision yourself there.”

There are some musts for students when visiting a campus for the first time, Rogers said.

“They should check in at admissions, meet a tour guide, and meet students and faculty,” he said. “Try to get all your questions answered. Don’t leave confused.”

Rogers had suggestions for students who are shy or unsure about what types of questions to ask.

“The types of questions can be: ‘What does it take to get in?,’ ‘What do you look for in a student?,’ ‘How is the transition from high school to college? How is it different?’, ‘What are the next steps?,’ ‘When will I have to pay my deposit?’ and so on.”

At Canisius, a campus tour takes about an hour. The tour should give prospective students a chance to observe classes, the athletic center and other major points of interest on campus.

“If there’s something that you would like to see, but haven’t gotten to it yet, ask. We’ll show you,” Rogers said.

A thorough campus visit should include the following, according to Rogers:

• A tour of the campus that includes: classrooms, residence halls, dining areas, club/activities locations, athletic/exercise facilities, and academic support services.

• A meeting with an admissions counselor.

• A meeting with a faculty member within your program interest.

• A meeting with an athletic coach, if applicable.

• An understanding of where services on campus are located, for example: financial aid, career center, advisement and tutoring services.

It’s also useful to ask how the college helps students out after they graduate.

“We have job fairs and internship access,” Rogers said. “There are also classes to help with the interviewing process. Students are put in a ‘real world’ room, in a setting of a real job interview.”

One major concern of most high school students and their parents is how they will pay for college.

While the financial aid process starts early and takes some time to complete, it is not necessary to get all your financial questions answered on a first visit.

However, it is helpful for families to know that “98 percent of college-bound students seek financial aid, and colleges have multiple ways to help students, including scholarships, payment-plan options, spread-out payments and investments,” Rogers said.

Dariene Siefert is a junior at Grand Island High School.