Column: Summer is a great time to make campus visits
As schools and universities across the nation hold graduation ceremonies over the next few weeks, we are reminded of the rite of passage that symbolizes the start or “commencement” of a new phase of life.
Texas A&M University-San Antonio recognized 945 students during commencement on May 17, the university’s largest graduating class to date. Thousands of family members and friends cheered on their graduates at the Freeman Coliseum as they crossed the stage and entered the next phase of their lives — a new job, new career or graduate school.
Another tradition this time of year related to new beginnings is for high school students and their families to begin visiting college campuses. Such trips are of tremendous benefit for both the student and family members.
Originally from the South Side of San Antonio, I attended high school in Alaska. It was a huge aspiration of mine to go to college, and the local state university, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, made sense. But I did visit other campuses, and that exploration is so important. I encourage students to start their campus visits early and talk with their high school guidance counselors about college as early as their freshman year. Campus visits provide opportunities to really experience the campus and to ask questions about things that are important to you.
This first-hand knowledge you’ll gain will either confirm your impression of that university or provide a different perspective, and either of those outcomes is valuable. A campus visit is the perfect time to see the inside of the residence hall, eat a meal at the dining facility, visit the bookstore, see classrooms and labs and maybe sit in on a class. It’s also a chance to read the student newspaper and explore student clubs, organizations and service opportunities.
I always encourage high school students to personalize campus visits by arranging to meet and talk to professors in their prospective majors and to talk with current students about their experience.
During visits, ask about the university’s special interest support and services. For example, if you are an active member of the military, veteran or child of a veteran, ask if there is a military or veteran affairs office. Meeting with the university’s admission counselor during the visit is also an opportunity to ask questions about academic programs, financial aid and student life, as well as establish a relationship before you start classes. These meetings provide admission counselors an opportunity to get to know you beyond test scores.
Take photos and notes during and right after the visit to guide your decision. Discuss the pros and cons of attending that institution — you might even create a chart to compare each institution. If an institution becomes your top choice, contact the university about new student orientation dates and make an appointment for academic advising to get a head start.
If you or a member of your family is considering college for this fall, I encourage you to schedule an individual or group visit to A&M-SA. You can schedule a visit online as well as an appointment to speak with an admission counselor at becomeajaguar.com.
As you consider your options beyond high school, I encourage you to explore, to reach beyond what you already know and be audacious in finding the right fit as you start to dream about all the possibilities that life will bring you.
Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Ed.D., is president of Texas A&M-University San Antonio.