With college in session and senior year still building to that final climax of AP tests, senior prom, and graduation, spring is the ideal time to do college visits with your child. Getting a first-hand look at the school and experiencing campus life while students are on campus will help you both make informed decisions when college acceptances start arriving.
To get you started, I want to share with you 5 easy ways to make sure you get the most out of your college visit experience. (And if you aren’t sure a full schedule of visits is possible, read up on how to make college visits in a tough economy.)
1. Know What You (and Your Student) Want
The thrill of senior year often means that students fall in love with a certain college without knowing much more about it than its prestigious name or exciting location. Before you spend money on visiting a particular college, you and your student should discuss what he or she really wants, needs, and expects out of his or her college years so you can be sure sufficient research has been done ensure that the only colleges that are still under consideration match that all-important wish list.
2. Take a Tour, Make a Tour
Campus tours can be a wonderful opportunity for you and your child, so schedule one into your time table. You’ll get to see the school’s highlights and your child will most likely have an opportunity to speak with the student leading the tour. You also gain the benefit of questions asked by others in your tour group. (Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the student leading the tour is not someone your child relates to. Remind your child that their opinion of one student should not influence his or her overall opinion of the school.)
That said, don’t limit yourself to the basic tour–make your own, as well. Take time to walk the grounds, visit campus hot spots, speak to current students and, if possible, speak to someone in the Admissions and Financial Aid offices, walk through the library and eat at the cafeteria. A more thorough exploration of the campus will help you and your child get a feeling of what day-to-day life there is like and also get a sense of the campus “vibe”.
3. Go to Class
Many schools will allow your child to sit in on a class during your visit. This gives your student a taste of the college’s academic rigor and will help your student mentally prepare for the differences between college courses and high school classes. Contact the admissions office before your visit to see if this opportunity is available.
4. Put Faces to Names
While you’re on campus, take advantage of the opportunity to get some face-time with the people your student will interact with most. You may wish to schedule time with an academic advisor to help your child decode the course requirements, a department head of your child’s intended major, an influential coach who your child hopes to play for, or any number of other “VIPs.”
5. Have Fun, and Listen
Let’s face it–as exciting as this time is, it also heralds the departure of your child from the proverbial “nest.” Take advantage of this one-on-one time with your student while you have the chance and have some fun together!
This is also an important time for you to focus on listening. Try to withhold your judgment of a particular school until you know how your child feels about it. I suggest holding off sharing your opinion until you are asked. Ideally your child should make his or her own final college choice (within the parameters you’ve set) because your child is the one that has to live and learn there. This will likely be the biggest decision your child has ever made, and with some guidance, can take ownership of that decision - which can be a motivator for working on creating a successful college experience.
The next four years hold big changes for both of you, so you’ll want to be certain your child’s future college choice is one you can both get excited about.
All the best,