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Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Try Out a College Campus

Taking the time to personally visit a College or University Campus is an indication of a sincere interest on your part - there's also nothing like visiting your potential new school in person!

You're sure you've found the perfect college. You've considered all the crucial factors: guy-to-girl ratio, pizza delivery options and proximity to the beach. Yes, Southwest Madagascar Bible College is all that and a bag of pork rinds.

Not so fast. If you haven't made a campus visit to Southwest Madagascar Bible College, you're missing out on one of the most important college choice considerations

As helpful as brochures and online tours are, they do have limitations. They won't tell you whether your professors can lecture a hyperactive Chihuahua to sleep. They won't mention that the campus is wedged between a sewer treatment plant and a cattle farm. And you probably won't hear anything about the campus cuisine. All of this—and much more—can only be discovered by actually setting foot on college ground.

How much more? Glad you asked.

Tour de Campus
Even in this age of virtual tours on school websites or DVDs, a formal campus tour during your visit is a must. Aside from the obvious benefits of seeing the entire campus up close and personal, the campus tour is an ideal time to ask questions. Asking questions to a DVD or computer monitor isn't helpful. And since tour guides are often students, they're usually bursting with knowledge about the school.
So you'll want to come equipped with an arsenal of questions: What is the spiritual climate like on campus? Why are the garbage dumpsters overflowing with empty Pop Tart boxes? What are this school's strengths and weaknesses? Are there curfews or dating regulations? What pizza place delivers the fastest? The list could go on, but the point is this: Don't be afraid to ask anything.

Class Action
Try to schedule a campus visit while school is in session. This will help you know how the school feels with students and professors roaming the halls and sidewalks. Plus, you'll get to sit in on a class or two.

Before you actually take your trip, call the admissions office to secure your spot in a class that interests you. (You should also arrange meetings, lodging and meals.)

Once on campus, get a map of the college. This will keep you from meandering into the wrong classroom where you could inadvertently join students in a nine-part essay test. Keep in mind, however, that even when you do manage to find the right classroom, you'll probably be jumping into a course at mid-semester. If you don't understand everything that's going on, no big deal.

I remember visiting a class with my cousin when I was considering schools. My cousin was a youth ministries major at a West Coast school, and I joined him for his New Testament Greek class. Turns out the students had a short quiz to take that day. So for kicks, I took it too and filled in the blanks with such scholarly answers as, "That's Greek to me!"

For some reason, I didn't learn a lot of Greek that day. But through observation, I did learn a thing or two about the format of the class and the way students and professors interact. 

Taste and See
In my experience, virtually all cafeteria food is an acquired taste, so you might as well start acquiring early. When you visit a campus, take advantage of this unique opportunity. Don't just ask people what they think of the food. They might exaggerate, or they may have different tastes than you. You've just gotta stand in that cafeteria line yourself.

At the school I attended, many people got along fine with the food. Others found creative ways to enjoy meals. 

For example, my friend Frank was an expert at long-distance casserole launchings. Like a veteran quarterback, he could fling food items directly into my mouth from any distance with deft precision. For me, catching as much casserole as possible was a good way to get enough to eat when the food wasn't altogether appetizing.

Not everyone does so well with cafeteria food. Another friend of mine, Steve, eventually became so fed up with eating food he didn't enjoy that he lived on cereal. By graduation we were tempted to call him "Cap'n Crunch."

So, it's a bright idea to snag a meal at the cafeteria. Just make sure you could eat there every day. Is there a wide variety of food offered? After all, four years without regular home-cooked meals is hard enough. Four years without a meal you enjoy would be plain ugly.

A Dose of the Dorm
A big, big benefit of the campus visit is the opportunity to spend the night in the dorm. The aforementioned Frank roomed with me during my sophomore year. At the time, he was also in charge of making sure all prospective students had places to stay during their visits. This means we would occasionally house several students at a time in our miniscule room.

This wouldn't have been so bad if Frank hadn't put our bunks on lofts to save space. Essentially, I slept with my nose touching the ceiling and Frank's mattress was located approximately six inches beneath mine. This meant that before we would get in bed at night, we had to decide whether we wanted to sleep on our backs or our bellies. In the groggy morning moments following the blare of our alarm clocks, Frank and I would freefall from insane heights, forgetting that our landing pad was cluttered with prospective students.

OK, so it wasn't exactly the Hilton. But believe it or not, there is nothing quite like the fun and fellowship of dorm living. It is unlike anything else. Staying a night or two will give you the best taste of a school's dorm environment. And that could play a pretty big part in determining if that college is the right place for you. Just watch out for falling sophomores.

Ready to Visit?
Perhaps by now you're saying, "Josh, your convincing argument laced with humor has won me over! I now agree I should visit Southwestern Madagascar Bible College. When should I make the trek?"
That's an excellent question and one that deserves an excellent answer. I don't have it but the college you intend to visit may. Most schools have special preview sessions where you can join other prospective students in their first visit. Surrounded by dozens of other people going through the same thing you are, you'll find it easier to fit in. It's also great to have people to share impressions with. If you do end up attending the school, preview sessions are also a great time to meet a potential roommate.

If you can't make an official visit day, I'd suggest scheduling a Friday visit. This enables you to visit a class, take a tour, and talk to professors, but it also allows you to see how the campus looks on a weekend. Is it fun? Are there volunteering opportunities? What do people do outside of class? Besides that, college students are far more eager to hang out with prospective students when they don't have to study or complete homework for the following day.

Clearly, a campus visit is a rewarding experience. Don't let the chance pass to see the sights of your prospective schools in person, even if your atlas has already shown you that Madagascar has beaches on four sides.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Technology and its Transformation of the Teacher

A Is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution

BY: ANYA KAMENETZApril 1, 2010
Kids, education, applications, technology
From Left: Angel Taylor, 6, Jose Becerra, 7, and Julissa Munoz, 6. | Photograph by Danielle Levitt
As smartphones and handheld computers move into classrooms worldwide, we may be witnessing the start of an educational revolution. How technology could unleash childhood creativity -- and transform the role of the teacher.  -> Click here to read entire article <-

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals