What exactly are we looking for when we visit a college? A number of things, really, and while some are the same, somethings are unique to each of my kids.
With DD, her first criteria was that the school was an evangelical Christian school. Second, she confirmed that the school offered her major or a study course that would qualify her for grad school. Once she settled on a school, and we went to visit, this is what we looked for:
1. Was she comfortable with the location of the school? This particular college is out of state. It's close enough that we could drive there and back in one (long) day, but not close enough that she will be coming home on weekends "just because." It's also a very remote school - the nearest Wal-Mart is 26 miles away! Being out in the boonies suits her just fine.
2. Was she comfortable with the size of the school? The college has about as many students as her high school. Not a problem. The main part of the campus (aside from the athletic facilities) is centered around the quad, and it took us 5 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Again, not a problem at all.
3. Was she comfortable with the atmosphere of the school? We heard over and over and over about how the students and faculty are family, how they really foster a sense of community and togetherness. DD was excited to see all the Scripture references in the academic buildings, and she really, really enjoyed the chapel service we attended. One moment that sticks out, at the end of the day, we were waking to the admissions office to get her school excuse, and there were students playing Frisbee on the quad and a small group on the steps of one of the buildings, with a guy strumming a guitar. DD was awestruck because she thought those things only happened on TV. I think she was walking on air at that point! ;-) Most importantly, she felt at home. She was relaxed and felt totally at ease and would have easily stayed if they would have admitted her that day.
4. Would DD like the food? DD is rather picky, to put it nicely. ;-) And the town itself only has 2 other restaurants besides the school cafeteria - Subway and a Chinese buffet. So it was important that she like what was served, and she did. She tried a few different things at the luncheon, and to her surprise, she liked all of it! That was a relief! haha
5. Could she find activities and interests outside of class to get involved in? DD has not been very involved in extracurriculars in high school. With the school being so remote, so far from home and so small, it will be crucial that she "put herself out there," so to speak, and find a few things to invest her time in. She loves the idea of learning out to cross country ski and go hiking in the woods that surround the school, and she thought there were a few clubs and Bible study groups she would like to check out once she is there.
6. How would the classes prepare her for grad school? DD wants to be a vet. Not a small animal vet, but to work on a rescue ranch or facility for exotics. If she returns closer to home for vet school, she will need to have at least 2 internships during the next 4 years, ideally in her area of specialty. Uh, you don't find exotic animal rescues around every corner! Yet, when she got a follow-up call from a student a few weeks later, it turned out that student's roommate was a pre-vet student and the previous summer had done an internship at an exotic rescue less than an hour away from campus. Another confirmation. The department heads that spoke during one of the breakout sessions also stressed that they work with each individual student on where they want to attend vet (or medical) school and what the school(s) require. They also have a very good track record with their students passing the vet and med school entrance exams, 98% on the first try over the last 6-8 years.
7. Would she have an opportunity for overseas study? DD is very interested in a semester overseas, and this college offers, among others, a semester in Tanzania with one of the courses dealing with hands-on work with exotics. Guess what someone has planned for approximately 3 years from now? :-)
When we return in the next few days, we'll ask more questions about overseas study, how the school handles blizzards and power outtages, car pool opportunities, computer requirements, etc., in addition to the biggie, "how do we pay for all this?" DD will get a taste of dorm life and roommates, and hopefully a few weeks later, she will be getting the only letter she wants - an acceptance letter.