Saturday, August 23, 2014
I accompanied my son to two college visits recently. Both schools were in Austin, Texas.
The schools were very different in size and the visits were very different in scope.
We left at 4:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning to arrive at St. Edwards University for our scheduled campus tour. Even though we didn’t really know where we were supposed to park or where the tour began, the school was small enough to be able to find our way around quite easily.
St. Edwards University is a small (5000+ students) private school. When you are on campus you don’t feel like you are in a big city. We didn’t have any appointments with advisors or admission counselors, we just toured the campus.
Generally, when you take a campus tour, the student tour guide will have the prospective students tell where they are from and what they plan to study.
A campus tour nearly always includes the library, rec center, dining hall, a dorm, and the academic buildings. The tour guide will try to connect the students with their intended major by pointing out the building (Science, Engineering, etc) where students will attend many of their classes.
In my experience, campus tours will usually last about an hour or so, no matter the size of the school.
After leaving St. Edwards, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the University of Texas.
Once again, we didn’t have an address for the building we were looking for or for the parking garage. (Note: always double check that your student has that information.) We don’t have smart phones so we resorted to calling my husband to look it up on the university website.
I have visited many universities over the last ten years, but this was the first time I could not tell where the city stopped and the university began. Since the University of Texas is in downtown Austin, I’m not sure there is a delineation, other than the street signs are burnt orange.
After several trips around the same block, we did find the correct parking garage and get pointed to the right building.
My son was attending a 3-day honors colloquium at the University of Texas. The dorm his group stayed in was 15 stories high, with several other groups also being housed there.
The contrast between St. Edwards University and the University of Texas (50,000+ students) was vast.
During the honors colloquium students not only toured the campus, but had classes with professors and learned more about the colleges and majors that interested them.
What was our take-away from the two visits?
The University of Texas is BIG. I have been on large campuses before, but this one overwhelmed me. But students seem to love it.
2. A public university education is much less costly than a private university education. (We already knew this.)
3. You can be in a big city and feel like you are not.
4. You can be on a university campus and feel like you are not.
5. A campus tour ideally should be coupled with individual appointments with department advisors and/or interaction with professors, if possible.
My advice? Many colleges offer full day or week-end events for prospective students. These events will give you more information than just a campus tour.
High School students should plan to attend events that colleges have for prospective students. These events usually require pre-registration and often fill up. High School seniors should research what is available and plan to sign up for fall events immediately.
What is your experience with college visits?