How to get a close up view of majors & careers during college visits

College visits aren’t just to get clear on what campus fits. They are also useful for learning more about careers.

The Standard College Visit

Families can fit this in during a half-day visit where you’ll attend an information session then get a tour led by a current student. You’ll be encouraged to stay and eat on campus and get that handy 25% off coupon for the bookstore to snag some spirit wear.

While that’s great for getting a feel for the campus, the Flourish opinion it’s not enough. When the end goal of paying $100,000+ on a degree is to get credentialed for a career you love and can launch into adulthood with, investing time upfront to better understand majors and the careers they lead to is wise.

Close Up Visits

At universities, majors are organized into colleges. Some examples are the College of Engineering, College of Nursing, Arts and Sciences College, Business College, and more. At smaller schools and liberal arts colleges this isn’t the case; students will instead see them organized by departments.

A close-up visit (not the official name) is one where prospective students attend an information session specifically on the college and the majors contained in the college or on a specific major, program, or department. This is a great opportunity to learn about what specific majors study and to ask what research, internships, and graduate employment the current students take part in. Those working in admissions offering the standard college visits aren’t equipped to answer such questions.

Keep in mind, these types of visits aren’t as widely available, so it requires advance planning to align all the pieces for a visit.

A Deeper Dive on Campus

While often not advertised, I encourage you to ask for more than even the close-up session. Request to meet with a professor or even sit in on a class. If permission is granted to sit in on a class, it’s usually no parents allowed, so mom, go grab a coffee. Is it possible to have lunch with a current student in the major of interest? If so, jump at the opportunity.

When my oldest was looking at colleges, I posted on social where we were headed. A friend in another city spoke up quickly and offered to connect us with her neighbor whose son was a senior in the college of interest. We stepped out of the comfort zone, reached out to the stranger, and offered to take him out to eat (speaking a college student’s love language) the night before our campus visit. We struck gold with that time and the student loved his school so much he was happy to meet us.

Stop into the college career center to ask what graduates of your target program are doing today and what companies are unknow to recruit on campus.

All you need to do is ask for the “deeper dive” options….all they can do is say no and you’re still in the same spot. But they just might say yes, and you’ve opened the door to opportunity.

College Visit Tips

  • Plan ahead…even if you don’t know where you want to visit, get out the school calendar and mark off any out-of-school dates to set aside for visits. Keep in mind, visits aren’t possible over Thanksgiving and winter breaks and are limited in May due to exams and graduation as well as August with the start of college. Due to Covid, availability may be limited and spots fill quickly.
  • Schedule the close up first…since these opportunities are limited then align it with the standard visit. If close-ups aren’t offered add them to your request…..
  • Deeper dive requests…reach out to the academic department or college to request any of the deep dive recommendations. Typically, you’ll find an email address.
  • Parents take a backseat…even if you schedule a visit with the online form, provide the student information and email. When making a deeper dive request, the student (NOT PARENT) should email. It’s fine to cc the parent if you wish. Parents, this even means when on campus for the visit. Try to not speak up first and let your student do so. If after a time it’s clear they won’t or have run out of things to say, it’s okay to chime in a bit with your own curious questions.
  • Prepare…by scouring the college and department website. Come up with a list of questions to ask which is especially important if you are going to have 1:1 time. It will be expected that students come ready to be interestED, instead of trying to be interestING.
  • Students, check your email…confirmations, directions, parking passes, and sometimes changes to your visit will come here. And it’s wise to get used to the adult world of email.
  • Journal your visit while it’s fresh…impressions will fade with time and as you visit more campuses. Make this a priority.
  • Be ready for round 2 senior year…you may just want to visit before pulling the trigger on enrollment.