High school students looking forward to their senior year cannot easily get excited about more school work after that. Yet for those considering college, the choices after high school require attention now.
As associate dean for undergraduates at the University of Maryland, I met many students who at first resisted this idea of visiting colleges saying, “I don’t even know what I want to do.” But your student shouldn’t put off college visits because no main field of study has come to mind. Most entering freshmen are only aware of a dozen or so of the 100-plus programs most colleges offer. College is for learning about yourself and how your own special talents fit the possibilities.
Few students stick to their first career notions. Over 90 percent of college students will change their major during their college years. Half will change more than once as they explore the details of subjects in college courses.
Other students may resist these first steps toward college by flatly stating, “I don’t want to go to college,” just to put off parents’ questions or because they have only a TV view of what college could be.
To get enthusiastic about college, your high school junior needs some first-hand information. The spark of excitement won’t come from just talking with Mom or Dad about the choices of work, local college, or a school far away.
This summer is a good time for soon-to-be seniors to visit colleges. In the fall, it will be time for applications so chances for visiting will be nearly over.
Driving down to a college to “just look around” can be frustrating for both student and parent if no arrangements have been made in advance. Have your budding college student call ahead to the college admissions office and set things up. A parent can help a balking 16-year-old by providing a short list of things to say:
1. Tell them you are going into your senior year and you would like to visit the campus and talk to an admissions person.
2. Mention the major subjects you are interested in.
3. Ask what events are going on that weekend. Special events may make it difficult to see facilities and faculty, or the events coming up might give you a special reason to make an effort to go on a particular date.
4. Ask about visiting a dorm.
5. Ask about talking to someone about financial aid programs (next week’s topic) and filling out the required Student Aid Report while you are there.
Your student might also ask about meeting with students in majors that are of interest. If the admissions office can’t help with that one, you or your teen may know someone you could look up during your visit.
Ask your college-bound student to begin a summarizing chart so that both of you will have a good review sheet when the time for the final decision comes. Include places for his ratings of the programs and courses, the college town, dorms, and job opportunities. What do students say about the different meal plans available and the size of the classes? How convenient is the traveling from home to campus?