College Visit Adventures


Catatan: Terjemahan dalam Bahasa Indonesia dapat dilihat di bawah ini

Our oldest child is currently studying in a high school in the U.S. As we approach her high school graduation and impending transition to college, some friends have asked us to share our experience regarding college search and college visit process so we’ve put them down in writing.

Background info:

Any discussion of college search/visit requires the reader to know some background info since each search/visit is a highly individualized process which is unique to that student at that time.

  • We started the initial search process by understanding some potential career paths that align with our child’s interest. This initial search was aided by recommendations provided by Naviance.
  • We started our visits during the winter of our child’s junior year in high school. Starting at this time allowed us to schedule the visits across a longer time frame and not have to be rushed to complete visits once our child became a senior.
    • We would later discover that Senior year is actually the most hectic period compared to all other years because students have the additional burden of preparing their college applications along with their normal school workload. Since our child was taking a number of AP (Advanced Placement) and Honors classes, this resulted in consistent lack of sleep and a rather stressful situation.
  • While we applaud the move towards a standardized Common Application (which is also conducted online), most schools will require a student to submit additional essays/info to complete the application to their schools. These essays can be quite time consuming to prepare, so please allocate time to be able to write/edit specific essays of these schools.
  • Campus visits typically consist of 2 parts (often scheduled back to back with each other):
    • Info session: typically 1 hour. Someone from admissions team along with several students will share their experiences studying in the school.
    • Campus tour: typically 1 hour led by students
      • I found it helpful to ask the tour guide a few questions such as:
        • Which other schools did you apply to?
        • Why did you choose to come to this school?
        • What were your high school extracurricular activities?
  • Note that your impression of the school will depend on your impressions of the info session AND the tour. We found that if either of the two was not so good, it left an unfavorable impression overall.  At some schools, the info session was good, but the tour was bad. At others it was the opposite
  • Most schools will offer at least 2 opportunities per day to attend the info session and campus tour (usually one in the morning, and another one scheduled for early afternoon). Some schools have more than 2 sessions/day. Check with your prospective schools to determine their schedules.
  • Interviews will vary depending upon the school. Some schools make it mandatory, others are optional. I will note that I was surprised to hear from a friend (who is part of the local alumni interview team) that he had several applicants who did NOT contact him to arrange an interview though the applicants had been informed that they need to do so.  If the school requests an interview, be prompt about scheduling it.

Background on student applicant

Our daughter had determined that she wanted to attend Medical School and get an MD degree. While it was good that she had such clarity of mind, Medical School is a graduate degree program, so that left her to decide what she would pursue as an undergraduate (for BS degree). While she initially considered a BS in Biology, her plan B was to pursue a BS in International Relations or Politics which is another area of interest for her.  The Plan B would actually differentiate her from many of the other Med School applicants who would typically come in with a BS in Bio or Chemistry, so that may be the BS degree she pursues.  At the moment she has not yet decided between the 2 options.

While our daughter has good grades (a high 3.x unweighted GPA on a 4.0 scale and a 4.2 weighted GPA), she is not her class valedictorian and there are a number of other students who have higher grades. To offset that, she has worked very hard on her extracurricular activities. Rather than joining 100 clubs and not really doing anything with them, she has focused on a few activities and has taken leadership positions with them. From the feedback we’ve received, this is a preferred path from the college admissions perspective.

Since there is no Magic Bullet/Formula that will guarantee your child’s acceptance, the best that you can do is to hope that the specific combination of grades, extracurricular activities, and community service that your child brings to the table happens to fit with what the admissions committee is looking for in their incoming student body.

Make a list of potential schools to visit

After consulting Naviance, it was determined that a Liberal Arts program would be best suited for our daughter. She then narrowed it down further by specifying that she wanted to be able to drive home in under 6 hours should the need arise. This effectively put us in the Washington, DC to Boston, MA corridor. While there are many schools in that geographic area, we ended up focusing on 18 schools.  The schools are listed by date of visit. Note that we ended up making two trips to Boston area.

  • Boston, MA area: Harvard Univ, Boston Univ, NorthEastern Univ, we also ended up driving past Boston College but didn’t have time for either info session or tour
  • Villanova, PA: Villanova U.
  • Ewing, NJ: The College of NJ (formerly Trenton State College)
  • Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ
  • Providence, RI: Brown Univ.
  • Boston, MA: Brandeis Univ
  • New Haven, CT: Yale Univ
  • Philadelphia, PA: U Penn
  • New York, NY: Columbia Univ, New York Univ.
  • Washington, DC: Georgetown Univ, George Washington Univ, American Univ
  • Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ
  • Rochester, NY: Univ of Rochester
  • New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, the State Univ of NJ (we didn’t attend info session or tour since our daughter was somewhat familiar with Rutgers since she had taken French 214 during summer ’10 session at Rutgers)

Scheduling the campus visits

Some schools ask that you pre-register for the info session and/or tour (often via online registration) while others have an open door policy, so it’s best to check ahead with the school you’d like to visit.

Prior to touring all these campuses, I was uncertain of the value of these campus visits.  When you account for the time, travel, hotel, and other expenses, the thought of doing these campus visits can be daunting and certainly can strain the family finances.  But one needs to weigh those costs against the costs incurred if your child ends up at a school that is not suited for him/her. You will end up spending significantly more time and money down the road to rectify that situation by trying to transfer your child to another school.

While it is possible to visit two campuses that are near each other (visit one campus in the morning, the second campus in the afternoon), don’t forget to allow plenty of time for you to be able to check into the hotel, have dinner, etc. It proved beneficial for us to check-in the night before so that we’d be rested when we started the morning campus tour.

We started our first visits over the Presidents’ Day weekend since our school district was closed  the Thursday and Friday prior to as well as the Monday of Presidents’ Day. Unfortunately we had prior commitments that weekend at home that we could not change so we lost some scheduling flexibility but we decided to start the visits at the farthest location (Boston, MA) and we managed to visit 3 schools.  We also managed to visit Villanova that Monday. We managed to visit a number of schools during our district’s spring break as well as over the summer.  We discovered that while many colleges have their spring break earlier than our high school, some colleges had their spring breaks at the same time. It’s best to visit while the college is in session so you can get a more realistic feel for the day-to-day environment, but the schools that were on break when we visited did a great job on both the presentation and tour that it did not negatively impact our impression of those schools, so don’t let the fact that the school is on break deter you from visiting.

A reminder: please give yourself sufficient time to get between the schools that you are visiting. Being rushed will most likely (unnecessarily) negatively impact your experience and may result in you eliminating a school that would have otherwise made your selection.  And wear comfortable clothing/shoes since you may end up walking quite a bit as part of the tour.

Final thoughts

Looking back at the experience, I will say that it was important for us to actually visit the schools instead of simply going by the brochure or the website. While some parents may argue that the campus visit should be done AFTER your child has been offered admission to that school, I’d counter that since there is only a 30-day window between the admission deadline (April 1) and the deadline for students to confirm their admission (May 1), there might not be sufficient time if you wait till after the child has been offered admission. Also it won’t help you narrow down the list of schools to apply to (we visited 18 schools and applied to 12 of the 18).

Good luck in your college search.


Pengalaman berkunjung ke Universitas-Universitas

Anak pertama saya sekarang sedang duduk di bangku SMA di Amerika. Berhubung wisudanya dari SMA yang sudah mendekat dan dia akan segera mulai kuliah, beberapa teman-teman meminta kami mencatat pengalaman kami dalam proses mencari sekolah lanjutan buatnya.

Latar belakang:

Karena setiap murid sangat berbeda dengan murid-murid lain dan proses mencari sekolah lanjutan betul-betul khusus untuk setiap murid, kami perlu berikan sedikit latar belakang proses kami.

  • Kami memulai  proses pencarian ini dengan mencari calon bidang pelajaran yang cocok dengan anak kami.  Kami mendapat petunjuk dari system Naviance yg dipergunakan rayon sekolah kami.
  • Kunjungan ke kampus kami mulai sejak musim dingin waktu anak kami berada di kelas 2 SMA. Memulai kunjungan pada saat ini memberikan kami jangka waktu yang lebih lama untuk melaksanakan kunjungan-kunjungan itu dengan tidak tergesa-gesa.
    • Belakangan kami temukan bahwa kelas 3 SMA adalah waktu yang sangat sibuk untuk anak kami (dibandingkan tahun-tahun sebelumnya) karena anak kita musti mempersiapkan lamaran-lamaran ke universitas ditambah PR sehari-hari.  Karena anak kami mengambil beberapa kursus AP (Advanced Placement) and kursus-kursus Honors, walhasil anak kami sering telat pergi tidur dan menjadi stress.
  • Meskipun kebanyakan universitas sekarang sudah mempergunakan Common Application (yang standard), kebanyakan sekolah akan tetap meminta karangan/info lebih lanjut dari calon murid.  Karangan-karangan tersebut kadang-kadang memerlukan banyak waktu, jadi kita musti sediakan cukup waktu untuk menulisnya.
  • Kunjungan kampus biasanya terpisah dalam 2 tahap (biasanya berdampingan waktu):
    • Info session: biasanya 1 jam dan ada orang dari panitia penerimaan beserta beberapa murid yg akan menceritakan pengalaman mereka.
    • Campus tour: biasanya tour 1 jam dipimpin oleh murid
      • Saya sering tanya tour guide beberapa pertanyaan, antara lain:
        • Apa universitas-universitas yang lain dimana mereka melamar
        • Kenapa mereka pilih universitas ini
        • Apa kegiatan-kegiatan yang lain yang mereka terlibat semasa SMA
  • Pendapat kami mengenai sekolah tersebut sangat dipengaruhi oleh Info Session dan Campus Tour.  Kalau Info Session atau Campus Tour kurang baik, kami dapat kesan buruk mengenai sekolah itu.  Kadang-kadang Info Sessionnya baik tapi Campus Tour buruk atau sebaliknya.
  • Kebanyakan sekolah akan berikan paling kurang 2 kesempatan/hari untuk menghadiri Info Session dan Campus Tour (biasanya 1 di pagi hari, 1 lagi di sore hari), baik ditanyakan lebih dulu kepada sekolah supaya tahu jadwal acara.
  • Wawancara antara sekolah & calon murid itu tergantung dari sekolah masing-masing, ada sekolah-sekolah yang mewajibkan wawancara, yang lain memberikan kesempatan tapi tidak wajib. Saya kaget mendengar dari teman (yang merupakan salah satu anggota alumni yang mewawancarai calon murid) bahwa ada calon-calon murid yang tetap belum menetapkan waktu untuk wawancara, meskipun calon-calon murid tersebut sudah diberitahu bahwa mereka musti mengatur jadwal wawancara. Kalau sekolah meminta wawancara, sebaiknya kami jawab secepatnya dan pastikan kapan wawancara itu akan dilaksanakan.

Latar belakang calon murid

Anak kami sudah menyatakan dia mau ambil bidang Kedokteran and mencapai gelar MD. Meskipun baik bahwa dia sudah cukup jelas tujuannya, Fakultas Kedokteran adalah Graduate Degree Progam (S2), jadi anak kami tetap musti memikirkan apa yang akan dia pelajari untuk Undergraduate/Bachelors Degree (S1).  Pertama-tama dia pikir akan ambil BS in Biology, pilihan kedua (Plan B) adalah ambil BS in International Relations atau Politics karena dia juga tertarik mempelajari bidang-bidang itu. Plan B itu akan membedakan dia dari calon-calon yang melamar ke Fakutas Kedokteran karena calon-calon yang lain rata-rata mempunyai gelar BS Bio atau BS Chemistry. Jadi mungkin dia akan ambil BS International Relations atau BS Politics. Pada saat ini dia belum memastikan jurusan apa yang akan dia ambil.

Meskipun angka-angka anak kami cukup baik (3.x yg tinggi unweighted GPA berdasarkan skala 4.0 dan 4.2 weighted GPA) dia bukan valedictorian dan ada beberapa murid-murid yang lain dengan GPA yang lebih tinggi. Oleh karena itu, dia terlibat dlm beberapa kegiatan-kegiatan extrakurikuler. Daripada ikut 100 kegiatan di mana dia hanya salah satu anggota, dia memilih beberapa kegiatan dan menjadi pemimpin dalam kegiatan-kegiatan itu. Cara ini lebih disukai oleh sekolah-sekolah yang telah kami Tanya.

Karena tidak ada “Magic Bullet/Formula” yang akan menjamin anak kami akan diterima, kami hanya bisa berharap bahwa nilai GPA, extrakurikuler, dan kegiatan komunitas/lokal cukup menarik dan cocok dengan apa yang dicari oleh sekolah.

Bikin daftar sekolah-sekolah yang mungkin kita kunjungi

Setelah meneliti laporan dari Naviance, kami mencapai kesimpulan bahwa program Liberals Arts adalah program yang tepat untuk anak kami.  Dia menseleksi calon-calon sekolah lebih lanjut dengan membatasi bahwa sekolah-sekolah itu musti tidak lebih jauh dari 6 jam perjalanan dengan mobil dari rumah kami. Itu berarti sekolah-sekolah yang kami kunjungi terletak kurang lebih antara Washington, DC dan Boston, MA.  Meskipun terdapat banyak sekolah dalam daerah itu, akhirnya kami membatasinya ke 18 sekolah. Daftar sekolah-sekolah tersebut adalah sebagai berikut, ingat bahwa akhirnya kami mengunjungi Boston 2 kali.

  • Area Boston, MA: Harvard Univ, Boston Univ, NorthEastern Univ. Meskipun kami melewati Boston College, kami tidak punya waktu untuk menghadiri info session atau campus tour-nya
  • Villanova, PA: Villanova U.
  • Ewing, NJ: The College of NJ (sebelumnya dikenal sebagai Trenton State College)
  • Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ
  • Providence, RI: Brown Univ.
  • Boston, MA: Brandeis Univ
  • New Haven, CT: Yale Univ
  • Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania
  • New York, NY: Columbia Univ, New York Univ.
  • Washington, DC: Georgetown Univ, George Washington Univ, American Univ
  • Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ
  • Rochester, NY: Univ of Rochester
  • New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, the State Univ of NJ (kami tidak menghadiri info session atau tour dari Rutgers karena anak kami sudah cukup kenal dengan sekolah ini karena dia sudah mengambil kelas bahasa Prancis, French 214, saat Summer 2010)

Mengatur jadwal kunjungan kampus

Ada sekolah yg mempersyaratkan kami musti daftar sebelumnya untuk bisa hadiri Info Session atau Campus Tour, sedangkan sekolah-sekolah yang lain tidak mempunyai persyaratan itu, jadi lebih baik kami periksa sebelumnya.

Sebelum mengunjungi kampus-kampus itu, saya ragu-ragu apa manfaatnya semua kunjungan itu.  Setelah mempertimbangkan pengeluaran waktu, hotel, dan ongkos-ongkos yang lain, kunjungan kampus bisa menjadi tantangan besar & pengeluaran uang yang cukup besar.  Tapi semua ongkos-ongkos itu musti kami pertimbangkan dengan berapa ongkosnya kalau kami salah pilih sekolah dan nanti musti bayar lebih banyak uang lagi untuk mencari sekolah yang lebih cocok dan memindahkan anak kami ke sekolah yang lain.

Mungkin kami bisa lihat 2 sekolah/hari (1 sekolah di pagi hari, 1 lagi di sore hari). Jangan lupa sediakan waktu untuk check-in di hotel, jalan dari satu sekolah ke sekolah yang lain, waktu makan, dan lain sebagainya.  Buat kami, perencanaan supaya tiba di kota tujuan pada malam sebelum kunjungan terbukti sangat membantu supaya kami cukup istirahat sebelum kunjungan pagi.

Karena rayon sekolah kami libur hari Kamis/Jumat sebelum Presidents’ Day, kami memulai kunjungan pada hari Kamis. Karena kami ada acara yang tidak bisa kami ubah, kami musti kembali ke rumah Sabtu/Minggu. Kami putuskan untuk memulai dengan kota yang paling jauh, yaitu Boston, MA, dimana kami sempat lihat 3 sekolah. Pada hari Senin kami mengunjungi Villanova Univ yang dekat dengan rumah kami. Kami kunjungi beberapa sekolah yang lain pada saat Spring Break. Jarang ada universitas yang liburan Spring Break­-nya serentak dengan liburan SMA, tapi salah satu sekolah libur juga jadi kami tidak lihat banyak murid-muridnya.  Sebaiknya tanya dulu dengan sekolah tujuan sebelum kunjungan. Sekolah yang libur belum tentu mempengaruhi pandangan kita secara buruk.

Ingat: jangan lupa sediakan cukup waktu untuk jalan ke sekolah lain kalau kita akan kunjungi beberapa sekolah dalam satu hari.  Kalau kita tergesa-gesa mungkin tanpa sengaja akan memberikan kesan buruk. Pakailah sepatu dan pakaian nyaman karena saat campus tour anda akan jalan hampir 1 jam mengelilingi kampus.

Pikiran-pikiran akhir

Melihat kembali pengalaman itu, buat kami sekeluarga ternyata sangat penting untuk pergi melihat sebanyak mungkin sekolah-sekolah yang mau dilamar anak kami.  Ada orang tua yg mengatakan lebih baik kami lihat setelah ada kepastian bahwa anak kami diterima, tapi risikonya adalah tidak cukup waktu (karena sekolah musti beritahu sebelum tanggal 1 April apakah diterima/tidak dan kami musti jawab tanggal 1 Mei). Selain itu, kalau kami tunda, kunjungan-kunjungan itu tidak akan bantu kami memilih sekolah-sekolah mana yang akan dilamar (kami kunjungi 18 sekolah dan melamar ke 12 sekolah).

Semoga sukses temukan sekolah yg cocok buat anakmu.


Photo Credit: Campus Tour via Great College Advice

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Born in Ujung Pandang, Andi often feels he’s still a newcomer to the United States even though he has lived in the U.S. for over 40 years. Along with Cynthia (his wife) and Arianna and Aji (his children), Andi has lived in the Princeton, NJ area since 1998 & is active in his children's schooling since they started kindergarten. In 2009, Andi became the first Indonesian to be elected to the Board of Directors for New Jersey State PTA (Parent Teacher Association), the state affiliate of National PTA, the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation. The opinions expressed here are Andi’s personal opinions and do not reflect the opinion of NJPTA or National PTA.


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  2. what if we’re living in indonesia, not in the US? just assume that we also couldnt go to the US for visiting on the holiday season. to be honest, this is my condition. i’m really depending on the school website/brochure. any solution? thank you 🙂

    • Many international students do not have the privilege to visit the schools for obvious reasons related to travel distance and cost. To make up for it, you can take the initiative to contact the admission officers, international student advisors, or current students. They will be more than happy to answer your questions. Even if they cannot answer your questions, they will most likely know someone who can and refer you to them. Some colleges also hold online chat with prospective students.


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