Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 4:28 am | A Few Clouds 67º


Lee Stetson: For Juniors Preparing for College Journey, Timing Is Almost Everything

From time management, to college trip scheduling, to acceptance sprint, you're better off to be prepared

When you think of your school holidays, I’m sure that your thoughts include a bit of rest and relaxation, sun-filled days away from the classroom and perhaps even a chance to sleep in. While you’re entertaining these ideas and deciding how to choose to fill your time outside of school, I hope you will also use this occasion to look at what lies ahead.

Lee Stetson
Lee Stetson

In regard to making plans, I am here to tell you that these days offer you an ideal time to make arrangements for your college visits to your schools of interest. Seize the day; enjoy and make use of this opportunity.

In deciding which schools you would like to visit, be sure to use common sense to plan ahead. Self-assessment is vital here, as you will have to start making decisions regarding such factors as the college environment, geographical location and distance from home, setting (rural, urban, suburban), size, etc. Be sure to think through these contributing elements carefully when you’re making your initial decisions, but don’t worry if the choice seems a bit overwhelming from the outset as you may be inundated with information. Although some students may have clear-cut ideas as to what they feel may be their ideal environment, you may want to allow for a range of scope in your visits so you can more aptly picture yourself in the most appropriate and fulfilling setting.

Regardless of where you decide to visit, always try to see a school when it is in session. To ensure if a school is the right fit for you, it is helpful if you have the opportunity to see it in full swing, to get a better sense of what each particular campus is all about. You should plan to attend information sessions and tours, sit in on a few classes, explore extra-curricular activities, speak with attending students, get a feel for the living situation, and generally absorb as much as you can in regard to what goes into making this particular student experience unique. By engaging in the natural atmosphere of a school and its student body, you will gain a better perspective of the campus as a whole and be better able to visualize yourself as a part of it.

To accommodate this guideline, there are certain times that are more amenable for your visits, and by planning ahead you should be able to accommodate all of your campus choices. As classes will generally be in session from Monday–Friday, both for you and the students at your destination, it will be useful to plan your visits either on a high school holiday that encompasses a Monday or a Friday, or else during a longer holiday such as the spring break of your junior year. Your summer vacation may be an option as well, but bear in mind that these visits should ideally take place in late summer or even in early September to guarantee that the school you are visiting will have commenced its fall semester when you arrive.

In deference to your schedule, know that the rest of the summer is also a viable option, as long as you are aware that the campus you are visiting may be involved in summer sessions that will provide a somewhat different, yet effective, snapshot of campus life.

I must mention here that when planning your calendar, you may feel tempted to wait to make visits only to those schools you have been accepted to before making your final decision. Please be aware that this is a precarious position to put yourself in, as most schools will not begin to send acceptance letters before April and you more than likely will have a reply date on May 1. By visiting your schools of choice prior to submitting your applications, you are effectively expanding your options and ensuring that you will be content at any of the schools on your list. Finally, visiting schools will enhance your ability to answer the various “why do you want to attend our school” essays that have become prevalent in the admissions process.

There may also be factors other than time affecting your visitation calendar, and it is important that you do not get frustrated by these constraints. Although you may not be able to travel to all of the schools on your list, you may be able to gain some perspective on the component factors such as size, state vs. private, etc., by visiting a local campus near you with some of the same amenities as your top-choice schools.

Locally, SBCC, Westmont and UCSB provide three compelling examples of three unique types of schools, and there are literally dozens of programs within a two-hour drive of Santa Barbara. By sampling certain aspects, you may find it useful when ruling out or embracing components of the schools of your choice. Keep in mind that that many schools also offer virtual tours that you may choose to take advantage of.

By planning ahead and coordinating your schedule with those schools that you intend to visit, you will gain a better idea of what lies ahead and how you can be best prepared to handle it. When assessing your time spent outside of the classroom, this preparatory work will allow for you to map out your time allowances leading into your senior year. As spring and summer of this year rapidly approach, be sure to adjust your agenda accordingly to include any work experience, travel, personal projects or volunteer activity that you plan on doing or are already actively involved in. These are important, defining components that will need to co-exist with campus visits in regard to your time outside of school, and I promise to address this in depth in a subsequent article.

By utilizing your time effectively throughout this and the upcoming year, it is my intent that you will find you are well prepared for the foreseeable future. As your senior year approaches, start thinking about how you can capably use the time remaining in this year to further your admissions objectives. In my next article I’ll help you create an understandable and workable time frame in which to accomplish these goals.

— Lee Stetson is chairman of the Admissions Advisory Board for Global Education Opportunities, a private admissions counseling firm. He has dedicated his life to higher education, serving as dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania for the past 30 years. He was also a College Board trustee, and has authored numerous articles on the admissions process.

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