May is a popular month to plan college visits for juniors, and even for sophomores. We just got back from a couple of visits to schools on my 10th grader’s list which were really eye-opening and motivating for her.
Seeing what colleges are like first-hand can help to spark excitement in your teen and a healthy anticipation for what’s to come. But even more importantly, experiencing colleges in person is the very best way I know to determine which schools are most appealing based on personal preferences and would ultimately be a good fit.
Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of visiting colleges with your teen:
And even before beginning, print out your free College Visit Checklist to help your teen keep track of what to do on each visit and how each school ranks compared to others.
The Best Times to Visit
I recommend that students try to visit schools between Monday-Thursday during the week, because the very best days to see what campus is like is when class is in session and things are bustling.
Of course, constraints and real life happen. If you can only visit colleges during off-peak times, certainly do! You’ll gain a lot from just visiting the campus to get a sense of college life there. In fact, my daughter and I couldn’t schedule a time other than Friday and Saturday due to other obligations at home.
So much for following my own rules….
Arrange for a Tour
This is typically as simple as visiting the school’s website and registering for a tour within the admissions pages. You can even Google the college name and the word “visit” or “tour,” and you’ll find just what you’re looking for.
Most campus tours start with an information session, where you’ll learn a little about the college before you start touring. Then, you’ll go on a campus tour with (most likely) a current student at the school.
In addition to simply joining a tour, you can arrange for other experiences on campus, like:
- Sitting in on a class
- Meeting with an admissions representative
- Meeting with a financial aid representative
- Exploring academic departments
- Sitting in on a club or sports practice session
- Eating in the cafeteria
- Visiting the student union
- …even spending the night in a dorm!
Contact the admissions offices of the colleges you and your teen are visiting early on to ask about arranging for these special experiences. They’re absolutely worth it!
Before You Get There
Your teen really should do some homework to learn about the colleges you’re both visiting ahead of time. This will allow some time for her to formulate questions to ask to understand more about how the school might be a good fit. At the very least, she should do some online research and talk to others she may know who’s attended.
Print out a map of the campus prior to leaving and find where the admissions office is. That’ll likely be your starting point.
What to Do While You’re There
- Be sure your teen is taking notes and photos to record things she likes or dislikes about the campus, or anything else that will be helpful to remember later on. The College Visit Checklist will help to do just that. Especially if you both visit a bunch of colleges, those details can be easy to forget!
- Campus tour guides are often paid to make sure their college looks and sounds amazing, so in addition to the tour, you both should walk through campus a bit on your own and your teen should talk with random students on campus. Asking them what they really like about the school and what they don’t like is a great way to get some very candid feedback and insight.
- Grab a student newspaper while you’re there, too. They’re great publications for learning a bit more about the feel of campus and things that are of interest to the schools’ students. They tend to be more objective than what you might hear from a tour guide, as well.
Learn All You Can
The goal of college visits is for your teen to get a sense of how she’ll feel when attending the school. She needs to make sure it’s a comfortable place for her; just the right fit. Many times she’ll have a gut reaction when visiting a campus, either good, bad or indifferent. Let her know she should pay attention to that along with all of the other information you both gather. It does matter!
If it’s not possible to visit a school your teen’s interested in in person, many colleges have virtual tours on their websites – those can give you a great glimpse into what you’d experience in person. A great resource for this is ecampustours.com – just enter the college name in the search area and you’re set! Also be sure to research the heck out of each school online to learn more.
Enjoy those visits!
Let’s continue the discussion! Thoughts on this post? Please leave a comment below!