- Visiting a college campus can sometimes impact students' views on higher education, but it can also affect a student's decisions in high school, according to a working paper out of the University of Arkansas's College of Education and Health Professions.
- The working paper's findings, released in February, found that about half of middle-schoolers living near the University of Arkansas had ever visited a college campus. Doing so boosted their chances of talking to a school staff member about college, along with the rate at which they took higher-level courses in 9th grade — but it didn't raise the rate at which they planned to enroll in a four-year college, researchers found.
- The researchers plan to continue examining these students, along with another group of 8th-graders who will visit the university, to see how they do in high school and whether they go to — or graduate from — college, Chalkbeat reports.
While this study shows visits didn't necessarily boost students' plans to enroll in a four-year college, it did prove college visits can be valuable in preparing students for higher education. College can be intimidating and foreign for middle- and high-schoolers, and offering an opportunity for students to visit long before they have to apply can make the idea feel less scary and more appealing. In addition, learning more about a school — and about college in general — means students are more likely to be informed about the application process, what programs a school offers, and how they can boost their chances of getting in.
In today's world, where applicant pools are hyper-competitive, students are charged with making themselves stand out to admissions officials. And if they visit a school and know what it's looking for, they may feel more compelled and motivated to push themselves academically — just as the Arkansas middle-schoolers did in signing up for more advanced classes in 9th grade.
While the study highlighted ineffectiveness in getting more students to plan to go to college, this data also reveals an opportunity for more active recruitment efforts, as well as efforts to ease the transition to college during a student's middle or high school years. For rural and first-generation college students, this is oftentimes even more important.
Chalkbeat notes that sometimes, taking younger students to colleges can backfire, but if school districts are doing their part to make college feel more second-nature, students are likely to be less fearful of the idea. A New Jersey school district, for example, has K-8 students take assessments four to five times a year to make sure they’re meeting state college and career readiness standards, and that they're introduced to working professionals from a young age. Both of these tactics make for more successful students post-high school. And offering early pathways options, such as dual enrollment, can go hand-in-hand with easing this transition.