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College Tours Are Becoming Part of Families’ Summer Vacation Plans

tour.jpgBOONE–Moms and dads across the country are

packing the family vehicle for a summer vacation that includes stops at one or more college campuses. It’s a chance for high school juniors and seniors in the family to get a first-hand look at the colleges they are interested in attending.

A little advanced planning, however, can help ensure that prospective students leave campuses with the information they need to narrow their college choices, says Patrick K. Setzer, associate director of admissions at Appalachian State University.

“Summer is a busy time for campus tours, especially in July and August,” Setzer said. “A lot of families plan college tours around their vacation. High school students really use this time to learn more about their college options.”

But before they pack their suitcases, Setzer said the students should first head to the Internet to enhance their college visit. “The Web is the easiest way to get information about a college campus, and often the most up-to-date information,” he said.

Students also should review information they collected from college fairs or from materials they received in the mail from colleges or universities.

“They need to do some research and develop a list of questions to learn more about the campus so they can better compare schools,” Setzer said. “Students and families should plan college visits based on an institution’s location, its academic programs and reputation, and if the college would be a good fit for the student,” he suggested.

The campus tour gives students and their parents a chance to learn about college costs, financial aid and scholarship opportunities, retention and graduation rates, and career development and other support services.

Often it’s the parents who have the most questions, Setzer said.

“The No. 1 question parents ask is, ‘Where will my child live?’ They are really interested in seeing the size and location of residence hall rooms,” said Tiffany Carpenter, a junior psychology major from Statesville.

Carpenter is a member of the Appalachian Ambassadors, a student group responsible for leading campus tours. “Parents also ask about parking and if their child can bring a car to campus, and they want to know about the cost of the campus meal plan,” she said.

Students’ top questions include inquiries about residence hall rooms and parking, but they equally are interested in the recreational and social activities available on campus and in the surrounding area, said Jaime McConnell, also an Appalachian Ambassador.

McConnell, a junior elementary education major from Mount Holly, has been leading campus tours for more than a year. “What is there to do on weekends?” is a common question prospective students ask her.

Michael Putnam, a senior elementary education major from Asheville, tells students that no matter where they go to school to get involved with a club or activity. “That really has helped me in my college career,” he said. Putnam, who has been giving campus tours for two years, has been a member of the student government association and is active with a religious group on campus.

Campus tours also give families a chance to learn more about an institution’s amenities, such as Internet access in residence hall rooms, the availability of computer labs, study abroad opportunities, typical class sizes and what to bring to campus.

Expect to spend at least two hours on a campus visit, Setzer advises. And ask if the student can meet with a faculty member or department chair in his or her area of academic interest. Most faculty are willing to honor such requests if their schedule permits.

“We think the campus visit is one of the most important factors in a student’s decision-making process. Until you actually visit a campus, you can’t get a true sense of what the academic and social environment is like,” Setzer says.

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Picture Caption: Jamie McConnell leads a group of prospective students and their parents on a tour of the Appalachian State University campus. (Appalachian photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger)