At this time of year, IvySelect’s high school seniors are focused on optimizing their college applications. They’re working with us to write personal statements, develop essays that respond to the prompts of specific schools, and making sure that all components of their applications reflect a consistent theme. In short, they’re working diligently on the many tasks necessary to successfully apply to their target schools. It is indeed a very busy season for seniors.
If you are a junior, on the other hand, you have the luxury of more time to prepare to execute your admissions strategy in the most efficacious way. Among the many tasks that you’ll undertake next year is to visit many of the schools that you’ve identified as colleges of interest, i.e., the schools that are early candidates to make your final target list.
College visits don’t usually occur until spring of junior year, summer, or early fall in senior year, so why the rush? The reason is that this is an appropriate time to consider using and perhaps select one of the specialized firms that offer services that enhance the college visit experience for families. These firms handle all of the logistical details of your family’s trips to your own customized set of schools. You may also benefit from the range of other value-added services that these firms offer.
Most college tour service providers load multiple students and families on a bus and then visit schools at which student guides conduct general-purpose tours of their campus. These tours serve a purpose and are far better than not visiting a campus at all. However, for those families that are so inclined, IvySelect can recommend a company that, in our opinion, offers specialized campus visitation assistance for those families who wish to visit colleges by themselves and have their own set of requirements for visits.
If you prefer to choose a firm yourself, there are a number of service providers in this market niche who offer a range of services. Among the services offered are the following (the last two depend on availability during your visit):
- Determine which schools are to be included
- Detailed assessment of your family’s requirements for visits
- Find best visiting days by balancing your schedule and school calendars
- Establish the most efficient sequence of campus visits
- Reserve flights, ground transportation, and hotels
- Provide pre-college visit planning tools and materials
- Set up a one-on-one meeting with a faculty member
- Set up a meeting with a student in a social setting
- Observe a class
- Set up a personal interview with an admissions staff, where available
- Arrange for an overnight stay in a dormitory for the student
- Schedule for one-on-one student-led campus tour for your family
- Tour areas of interest such as athletic facilities, labs, and studios
- Eat a meal in a campus dining hall
- Attend a research conference, seminar, or symposium
- Attend a concert, stage performance, or sporting event or practice
One campus visitation firm specializes in families who wish to take an Ivy League tour in a premium luxury van. The firm makes the arrangements for the schools that you choose to visit and for those services that you choose. For example, you can arrange to be picked up by your driver in Philadelphia, visit Penn, and then head north to the other seven Ivies. It’s a customizable itinerary, so you can swap out Dartmouth for MIT or Cornell for Wesleyan if you wish. You’ll then be returned to Philadelphia or to another airport for departure.
There are also firms that provide most or all of the services above plus an expert who will accompany you on your entire tour. This professional has detailed knowledge of every elite school you’ll visit. You’ll meet your guide telephonically before departure so you can advise them more specifically about your expectations for the trip.
We at IvySelect, as your college admissions consulting firm, advise you to consider visiting schools through a customized campus visitation service. You’ll have a much better idea of the type of school you wish to attend than if you experience only the standard tours or don’t visit schools at all. IvySelect helps you use what you learn about the type of campus settings, facilities, faculties, student culture, and other factors that you prefer. Together, we use this input to develop your best-fit list of 12 or 13 schools. This is a more complex task than it may seem, and one that’s critical to success in achieving your educational goals.