October 8, 2012

College Open Houses

On October 8, 2012, my daughter and I attended a college open house and Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.  It was the first time we had attended an college open house, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. 

My daughter is currently a junior in high school and I take opportunities like this one to let her explore what college is about, and that it isn't this really scary place.  This also becomes a time when we can discuss college, careers, and expenses.  I found the whole experience of the open house a bit underwhelming, however, it did have its good points. 

We found out about the open house through a billboard that was near where I worked.  Going to their website, there was a very informational area where you could register and sign up for different sessions.  They had 30 minute sessions that talked about NIU, choosing a major, the financial aid process, and the honors program.   They also had tours of dorm rooms, which we decided we didn't want to attend.

The open house started in the basketball arena which provided free parking and shuttle buses to the campus.  The only thing in the arena was basically a checkin where you received a bag to put all the brochures for the day.  After being told to go to two different tables where all they did was ask for our name, we went to the shuttle buses.  Getting off of the bus, there wasn't anyone or signs telling you where to go, you basically followed the red bags.  In the student center, the hall was setup with booths about different campus services, colleges, and college life opportunities.  We stopped at the athletics table, the honors table, and the academic advisors table.

At the academic advisors table, we received our first good piece of advice.  We were looking at a sheet of all the majors offered at NIU.  The advisor told us to start by crossing off all the things you DON'T want to do.  This will leave a list of topics that can be further researched as possible majors.

We then attended the Honors sessions.  To our surprise, this seemed to fit my daughter's personality very well.  The honors program has their own dorms and a single class that you take each semester.  The honors classes are typically a small classroom instead of a lecture hall and tend to be more discussion based.  The NIU honors program also have guest lecturers and outings to help the transition to college life.

Our final stop was to go to the Math Department.  As part of the open house, each department held an open house or some type of informational session for that particular.  I've been telling my daughter she should major in Math as it leads to a lot of diverse careers.  For example, you may think the Pixar movies are about graphical arts, but they really involve a lot of math.  The person we met with was very impressed that my daughter was taking Calculas as a junior and talked a lot about the differences of theoretical Math and the application of math concepts in statistics and actuarial sciences. 

If you decided to go to a college open house, plan a little before you go, as there wasn't much direction once we were there.  This was a little different than the Illinois Wesleyan campus tour we took in January as we were driving what we wanted to learn about instead of the university taking us on a tour.  We learned to ask about honors programs to see what they add to the college experience on each campus.  I continue to look for experiences to get over the "I don't know what I want to do" phrase, and hope, a little at a time, we can narrow down our choices.

College Open Houses was originally posted on My Kids College Search blog on October 8, 2012.

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