Time to Visit Campus!

October, 2012 – Time to Visit Campus!
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Welcome back to The Admission Blog!  Now that you are well into the school year, it is time to visit campuses of schools you are considering.  Campus visits may occur in different formats; here we will cover the shadow visit, and Open House.

The Shadow Visit
The shadow visit is the best way for prospective families to get to know the schools they are considering.  On these days you are seeing the school in action, on a normal school day, unfiltered.  Your student gets a chance to spend time with a real, live, current student of the school, see teachers in action, witness how other kids act toward each other, and perhaps most importantly, see what lunch is like!  Okay, maybe that’s not the most important thing, but high on the list in a student’s mind!

On a shadow visit students may be with someone they know, but if they are not it is a great opportunity to get to know someone new and ask questions.  After all, this will simulate the experience of coming to that school the following year as a new student.  What does it feel like being new?  Are the students welcoming?  Are they nice to each other?  How do the teachers interact with the students?  How is technology used in the classroom?  How are the students dressed?  What opportunities are there to play sports, participate in the arts, and try new extra-curricular activities?  Most importantly, does the school “feel” right?

As a parent, you also have an opportunity to witness these same things on a tour.  You may be on tour with an admission representative, who will certainly know the ins and outs of the school but are guaranteed to tell you the best aspects of the school.  You may be with a current parent volunteer, who can share insights from his or her own experience and answer questions directly.  Does the school live its mission?  Does the school offer the academic program and range of choice to fit your child?  How does the school approach character education?  Are the students encouraged to try new things and become well-rounded individuals?  How do parents get involved at the school?  Does the school “feel” right to you?

Open House
There are three primary goals for you as a prospective family on Open House since you may not see “normal” school in action.  First, how are the facilities?  Are the buildings and campus up-to-date and offer the space necessary for curricular, extra-curricular, arts and athletic opportunities?  Second, interact with teachers and students.  Ask teachers questions about their backgrounds, why do they enjoy teaching, what do they enjoy about their particular school, ask deeper questions about their teaching philosophy.  Students will be around and are the real experts as they are living the school on a daily basis; ask them questions!  How long have they attended the school?  What was it like when they were a new student, did they find the community welcoming?  What activities/arts/athletics are they involved in?  What is their favorite aspect of the school?  This is your chance to ask any other questions that may be on your mind about school life that you may not feel comfortable asking of an admission person.  Students will give you the unvarnished truth about their school.  Lastly, listen to any presentations by school leadership.  Find out these individuals’ vision for what the school has to offer and why it is the best school for your family.

Enjoy your visits to campus, visit several different schools and compare notes with your child.  Go back to campus multiple times to see it in different formats and talk to as many people who are living it to get their perspectives, as opposed to the “word on the street” from people without firsthand knowledge.

As we move into the application process, next month’s edition of The Admission Blog will focus on the Admission Interview.  Oh and, Go Cardinals!