The Ultimate Guide to College Visits for GEAR UP Programs
College visits are one of the many activities students take part in to decide which college to attend. Visiting a campus gives students the opportunity to see themselves on campus and experience an active and vibrant campus first-hand.
Oftentimes, students cannot imagine themselves on a college campus, but agree that a visit is an important step in the college selection process.
On their own, students may face barriers to accessing a campus visit – parents work schedule, transportation, timing etc., so being able to go as part of the GEAR UP program greatly increases their level of access and information to make a sound decision about college.
According to a 2022 report by EAB, 47% of college-bound students said campus visits were a top source of information they rely upon to make enrollment decisions. It’s no surprise then why visits are an integral part of high-school-based college readiness programs, like GEAR UP.
What is the GEAR UP program?
GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federal grant program that aims to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program provides support and resources to students, families, and schools beginning in middle school and continuing through the first year of college.
Support can include academic tutoring, mentoring, college visits, financial aid counseling, and other services designed to improve college readiness and success. The GEAR UP program is administered by the U.S. Department of Education and serves students in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
How Does GEAR UP Support Campus Visits?
The GEAR UP program supports college readiness by encouraging students to visit college campuses to get familiar with college and promote awareness of higher education options. While on campus, students have the opportunity to visit academic professors, financial aid officers, engage with current students, and more.
GEAR UP students can learn a lot about a college and themselves after a college visit, so it’s important to equip them with a campus visit resource that helps answer a variety of questions they may have during a visit. Our one recommendation is: don’t go on a campus visit or tour empty handed!
Benefits of the The College Visit Journal: Campus Visits Demystified for GEAR UP Students
Our journal is a comprehensive guide to college visits. It’s formatted as a guided journal and has 8 sections, one for each visit. Each section includes a variety of checkboxes, rating scales, and fill in the blank-style spaces to guide a student and their family on what to look for and ask during a campus visit.
The tips and advice provided in the journal are an invaluable resource for students, families and GEAR UP counselors and facilitators.
The journal is meant to be a complement to counselors existing college/career readiness goals and objectives and it acts as a complementary resource to deepen the student experience while on campus visits and evaluating choices post-visit. Additionally, it is a way to support parent/guardian participation and engagement.
Tips for GEAR UP Counselors
For GEAR UP staff and counselors, counseling students before and after the visit is as important as the actual visit. The prep work helps set the expectation for the students and the post-visit debrief assists students for “what’s next”. Here are a few campus visit prep and debrief tips for GEAR UP counselors and coordinators:
• Have students research schools they’re interested in using CollegeScoreCard.ed.gov
• Have students create a list of “Must Haves vs Nice to Haves”
• Ensure students know most recent academic profile (test scores, GPA, class rank, # of hours, # of AP classes, etc.
• Make connections: Introduce current students to alumni who attend a college they’re interested in
• Encourage students to continue researching schools of interest using internet search and social media hashtag search.
• Have students reflect on how well the university is a good “fit” for them. Consider academic,
diversity, social, financial and athletics
• Have students identify the next steps in the overall application process: Virtual / In-person orientation, pay fees, complete/start FAFSA, request more information, send ‘thank you’ note, start/finish application
The college visit process can be exciting and valuable for each student. When students are prepared to take notes and ask questions, they can ensure the visit experience is a good use of their time. The College Visit Journal was created to make the college visit process easier to navigate and serve as a low cost, high value resource for college-bound students.
Are you from a GEAR UP school? Learn more about The College Visit Journal and reach out for our one-pager with benefits and outcomes, information about speaking opportunities and discounted book pricing for your students.