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March 2014
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Successful College Visits: What You Need to Know

Maria Furtado
We are excited to feature a guest interview with Maria Furtado, Executive Director of Colleges That Change Lives, Inc. Maria's extensive professional experience in college admission informs her insightful recommendations on how to plan and enjoy successful college visits. April is a popular month for campus tours for high school seniors with college acceptances and juniors just beginning their college search. Students and families are making the most of spring break as a time to connect with schools in person and experience their campuses and communities. Thank you Maria for sharing your expertise!

April is a popular month for both prospective applicants and accepted students to visit colleges. Besides attending an admission office tour and information session, what else can students do during a college visit to help determine if a school is a good match? Should accepted students (seniors) be doing anything different than prospective applicants (juniors)?


For seniors, I would highly recommend a class visit and/or a meeting with a professor in an area of academic interest. Seeing the student/faculty interaction can really help seniors decide if a school will be a good fit academically. For all students, I recommend wandering the campus after the official tour and watching students' interactions with each other; read what's posted on the boards around campus to see what's happening socially on campus; see if there's a game or show on campus that you can attend to get a sense of what students do when they're not in class. And think about what's important to you... for example, if you believe strongly in the importance of recycling, are there recycling bins around the campus?


How can high school families learn about a college's surrounding geographic area besides driving around the campus?


Get a local newspaper or like the town or city on Facebook. Look for a weekly paper that gives listings of concerts, movies, museum exhibits, arts festivals, music festivals, etc. Ask students on campus how they use the city/town. If you're interested in community service, make sure to ask about students' involvement locally, and if you'd like to attend church services or synagogue, make sure to Google the available options.


College visit trips can be insightful and exciting, as well as exhausting, especially on days involving extensive travel. What can families do to "recharge" and have fun during a trip?


Think of something non-college related that you all enjoy...Museums? Bookstores? Hiking? Fishing? Athletic events? Then try to schedule those fun things into your visits. If there's something you collect (mugs, flags), find a way to pick those up in each place. Or, check out a site online that shows unusual local attractions - a huge stuffed elephant, massive ball of yarn, frontier museum, petting zoo... anything that can help everyone in your family relax a little and laugh, as well as take some fun pictures. What about checking out the "best of" in a diner for breakfast, best pizza for lunch, best local coffee shop, etc.?


High school juniors are at times apprehensive about visiting colleges as beginning the college search process can feel overwhelming. Do you have any advice for both students and parents?  


Consider visiting a local school or two to start to get a sense of what you like...rural vs. urban, or large vs. small. If you use the local schools as "test visits," some of the nervousness can be erased since you'll know more of what to do and ask when you visit schools you're more excited about.


After visiting a number of schools, the details from specific college visits can easily be forgotten. What can parents and students do to document their campus travel?


Take pictures! Grab a school newspaper during the tours. Make a few notes when you get back in the car. Try to find something on each campus that helps you remember the school...maybe it's a picture of the tour guide or the admission office, the mascot, or a sculpture or piece of distinctive art.


To learn more about Colleges That Change Lives, please visit For additional information on planning successful college visits, please get in touch. We are happy to help!


Upcoming Events


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NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) hosts college fairs in many US cities during the spring. These fairs are very well attended by colleges located throughout the country and provide a great opportunity for students to network with admission officers. To find a college fair near your home, please click here. The Boston National College Fair will be held May 1-2, 2014.
From May 20-29NEACAC (New England Association for College Admission Counseling) will host college fairs in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. Colleges located throughout the US will be in attendance.

Colleges That Change Lives, Inc. (CTCL) is a non-profit organization including various colleges in the US that are featured in the book Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope. CTCL will be offering college fairs in many US cities in 2014. The Boston event will be held on May 21, 2014.

All college fairs are free and open to the public.
Please visit P&A News and Events to find more upcoming events in your local area.

Website Pick of the Month

In early March, the College Board announced significant changes to the SAT that will first appear on the Spring 2016 exams. In addition to the writing portion becoming optional, the new SAT will be offered in both digital and paper formats.  Students are also less likely to confront obscure vocabulary words, and points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers. Another important announcement is that Khan Academy will be providing free high-quality test prep for the new exam.

Stay up-to-date on news regarding the new SAT by visiting and following The SAT Program @OfficialSAT on Twitter
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