Spring again! It’s that time of year when parents and their college-bound youngsters set off to tour colleges and universities to gain a better understanding of what will make a good match. NJIT Dean of Students Jack Gentul says that spring works well for those college visits. However, before jumping into the car, Gentul, himself a seasoned parent of college-age youngsters, advocates planning ahead.
Top rule, says Gentul—go when classes are in session. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this. Students size up whether or not a school is for them by checking out the feel of the institution. If you show up when students and faculty are on vacation, you’ll have to imagine what the place is about.”
Don’t ignore campus events. “Events give you a good feel for social life, so attend one or two,” said Gentul. “Check out the campus newspaper—both on line and when you arrive—to become familiar with some of the issues on campus.”
Set up questions in advance. And once on campus, ask multiple people to validate not only your top academic questions but also the residence experience, parking issues, safety, the quality of food and academic support services.
During the visit, make the student cafeteria your top stop--preferably during lunch when students are likely to be congregating. “Sit at a table with students and don’t be afraid to ask about their own experiences,” he said.
Take the scheduled tour but explore on your own, too. If the campus is large, don’t leave without trying the campus transportation system.
“I love overnights,” said Gentul. “Tours and Admissions people can provide specifics, but you’ll get a much richer feel for the institution by spending the night. Of course they will only be scheduled when classes are in session. Prospective students will not only get to meet and greet students on a casual basis in residence halls, but they’ll have more time to attend a class or two and events the next day.”
While having as much information as possible is useful in making a decision about where to attend college, says Gentul, no matter what institution you pick the college experience will be what you make of it.