Coordinating group summer visits
It can be a challenge to arrange group college visits for your students (and parents) under normal circumstances, but it can be especially hard in the summer when school is out for everyone—including you! Scheduling it during Minnesota Private College Week can alleviate some of those challenges since our 17 colleges are already geared up for visits.
College and career resource center counselors Tara Halvorson (Chaska High School) and Emily Mattran (Chanhassen High School) successfully tackled the challenge and arrange visits during Minnesota Private College Week every year. And we’re pleased to share insights on how to plan and make it work based on what they’ve learned along the way — and shared last fall at the MACAC College Counseling Institute.
Start by considering who you want to take on the visit. The obvious answer is students, but which grades? Can anyone come or are you trying to reach a certain type of student such as students of color, first-generation students or low-income students? Are parents welcome to come along? How many people are you anticipating?
Since Minnesota Private College Week is always the last full week of June, you’ll already have narrowed down the week so all you’ll need to do is pick the day and the session. If you’re planning it at another time during the summer, come up with a few possible days and times.
Next, make a list of the college or colleges are you interested in visiting and don’t be afraid to include a variety of schools to push students outside their comfort zone — big vs. small, rural vs. urban, and so on. Contact each college to find out if it can accommodate a group of your size on the day and time you’d like. If you’re doing it during Minnesota Private College Week, the answer will probably be “yes.” Still, it’s possible a college might have another group coming on the same day and time so it’s a good idea to put out feelers well in advance. Colleges are typically very willing to work with you to find solutions and answers to your questions.
The college also may want a registration list ahead of time that has specific information about the students including what they might want to study in college. Keep this in mind when designing your registration form. (We've also created a group visit sign-up sheet that you can use for Minnesota Private College Week.)
So now you have an idea of who you want to take, when to take them and where you plan to go, but there are a lot of other details to iron out.
How will you pay for transportation costs?
First, check if your district is willing to pay for the busing. If your district has a foundation, consider approaching them as well. If both of those are a no-go, there are a number of other options that you can explore:
- Approach a community association or local businesses to see if any might be willing to chip in some money.
- Apply for a Perkins Career and Technical Education Grant. You can find information and a contact person on the Minnesota Department of Education website.
- Offer it through your community education for a small fee.
Students also may ask if they (or their parent) can drive themselves to the visit rather than riding the bus. Make sure you have an answer prepared.
How will students be chaperoned?
Check if your district will allow you can take days off during the school year to use in the summer. If that’s not an option, you might need to volunteer your time, but you’ll likely need several chaperons unless your group is fairly small. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Can you recruit other school counselors? What about teachers?
- Are other parents available (in addition to any coming along with their student)?
- Are any of your high school alumni who went to one of the colleges you’re visiting willing to help?
How will you handle registrations?
Since you’ll need a parent’s signature, you’ll probably need to use a paper form, but there are a number of other things to consider as well:
- If you’re planning to visit two campuses during the day, do students have to sign up for the entire day? Or can they visit one campus but not the other?
- If you’re planning visits on more than one day, do students have to register for all days or can they pick and choose which days they want to go?
- When do you plan to open registration?
- When do you plan to close registration? When the busses are full?
- Will you keep a wait list?
The final logistics
Once registration closes, confirm the registration with students, especially if it’s right at the end of the school year. Then follow up the week before the visit is scheduled to make sure their plans haven’t changed. This is very important if you have a wait list. If you are concerned students will register but not show up on the day of the visit, you could require a deposit to show their commitment to coming and then refund the amount when they do. This could, however, be a deterrent to low-income families so weigh this option carefully.
Also keep in mind that colleges often will not pay for lunch so make sure that students know to bring money or a bag lunch with them. And it’s a good idea for you to plan to bring a supply of water on the bus.
Be sure to have a list of questions that student should ask for the day of the visit. They probably won’t think of this on their own.
And perhaps most importantly, be flexible. Things sometimes don’t go as planned the day of the visit. Maybe it’s the weather that isn’t cooperating or maybe the bus driver simply insists on dropping you off at a different spot on campus that you planned. Being able to “wing” such circumstances will make the visit less stressful for everyone.
Although Minnesota Private College Week is intended to serve as an early introductory visit, it can also help families learn how campus visits work so that they can schedule a personal one on their own.
And if scheduling during Minnesota Private College Week (or any time during the summer) simply doesn’t work, consider other times during the school year, including campus open houses, MEA break or even spring break.
Still have questions about how to make it work for you? Feel free to contact Tara Halvorson (Chaska High School) with your questions.