Hurray, we can finally see small signs of spring with the budding crocuses and daffodils. With spring comes college visits. It is time to plan for them as the high school spring break week will be here very soon. Tour reservation plans should be made by this week in order to secure a spot on the campus tour.

College selection can be stressful, but that stress can be managed by a college visit plan. Over the years, I have found that having a plan and implementing that plan is the best strategy for keeping stress to a minimum. That plan starts with a defined list of schools. If that list does not exist, then the list creation is the first step.

Since time is limited, the list needs to be prioritized. The reason for this is that seeing a school when students are there gives the parent and the student a more robust picture of life on campus. One can see college buildings and the local environment during summer visits but the feel of the students on campus will be mostly absent.

This article will assist you and your son/daughter to develop that plan. The plan will be divided into two parts; general college visit considerations and then, next week, specific college visit considerations.

It is imperative, though, that the process starts now and it is highly recommended that you visit at least two colleges in the next five weeks. After that time the college students begin studying for their finals.

The list should only include schools that can be visited. Students often do not fully comprehend the time, money and effort that are necessary in visiting a school in Florida or California. The concept of applying to a school that is far away and then visiting after the student is accepted is not a process that I recommend. If the school is worth applying to, then go visit it.

If parents are wondering about the necessity of spending a lot of time on a college visit list, they might want to remember that they are helping their son/daughter to evaluate one of the most important investments in a student’s life. An investment that costs a minimum of $100,000 and can range up to $250,000 should merit the appropriate time and attention.

For initial college visit considerations, there are many choices to consider. Some of the basic considerations are school size, location, or a public college instead of a private college.

The two most important criteria for college admissions are the grades of the courses taken and the SAT/ACT scores. You know the grades and the level of coursework. The student has also taken two PSAT tests by now. So you can project what the SAT score may be by adding 40 or 50 points to the PSAT score. For example, let’s say the student scored a 550 (55) on the PSAT. Then we can reasonably project that they could score a 600 on the SAT. Please note that I said “could” score and did not say “would” score. This increase presupposes that the students are studying for the test.

So the next question is, “What is the average SAT scores for college x?” That information can be found on the websites College Navigator or Naviance. A student’s scores should be within the range of the college in order to have a chance of acceptance. If a student’s scores are below the average range of scores for the college, then the chances of acceptance are greatly reduced unless they have some outstanding talent or skill that the college desires.

I recommend that you select just one college to visit that is outside of the student’s range. Any person can sign up for a tour of Harvard, but is that the best use of your time? A person can only visit a few colleges, so make each visit count.

The second important criterion often involves money. People choose a state school because they perceive them to be less expensive. First, that is not always the case. Did you know that students of families with limited incomes can attend 13 private Massachusetts schools (like Boston College or Mount Holyoke), as they cost those students less money than a state school?

Many schools have a philosophy that they do not want the cost of the college to be an issue. You can find out what a school will cost by going to College Navigator and selecting the Net Price tab of the college. The net cost of the college, which is the amount of loans that have to be taken out, is listed by income brackets. This section is called Average Net Price by Income. The answer may be a pleasant surprise.

Finally, if you plan really well, it is possible to visit two schools in a day.

Tip of the Day: Have you met with the student’s counselor and received some names of colleges to consider visiting?

Mr. Zorski was in business for 23 years and has been in education for 22 years. E-mail questions to jzorski47@aol.com.

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