Should college visit days count toward total student absences?

by Hannah Nicholson, opinion editor

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Hannah Nicholson

Many seniors are starting the process of applying to colleges, and one part of that process is college visits. Seniors must decide what environment would best suit them for the next two to four years of their education, and the best way to get a feel for universities is to visit in person.  Unfortunately, the current school policy decrees that college visits count toward the 10 excused absences a student has each year. Many seniors disagree with this decision.

In order to be excused for a college visit, Saegertown’s policy requires that students bring a note from an admissions counselor saying they were at the college on the day they were absent. “Technically by now we want kids to be applying. They should tour during the summer when they do their senior projects,” said guidance counselor Rose Watt.

With the current system, students who did not tour over the summer, like Stefanie Arblaster, are stuck using their excused absence days for college visits. “I understand why that rule is in place, but they should take into consideration that a lot of people make decisions about college during the school year, and that it’s pretty important that we tour a school where we might spend the next four years,” Arblaster said.

Many colleges also invite seniors to come back for different activities during the Fall to show them what campus life is really like. Seniors are invited to sit in on college classes, which can be important if a student is concerned about class size at larger colleges.

Visiting a college during the summer only shows students what the campus looks like, and not what it feels like. “I think visiting a college is important because we’re going to spend the next 4 years or more there, so it’s important to get a feel what the campus is like and what kind of education it provides,” Arblaster said.

Board policy 204 says “The board may excuse a student from school attendance to participate in an educational tour or trip not sponsored by the district,” but that “ the board may limit the number and durations of tours and trips for which excused absences may be granted to a student during the school term.”

While this is the board policy, it is based in Pa. School Code. This law was last reviewed in 2004, and it is time for it to be updated to reflect student needs.  Bottom line, the policy surrounding college visits and student absence is unfair to students. Seniors should not be charged absence days when they are trying to make informed decisions about their futures.

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