Hitting the Road for College Tours

My son, a college freshman, recently revealed he missed going on college tours, which started me thinking.

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

Neither of my kids ever seemed overly excited about looking at colleges. They had the same glum look on their faces as every other high school student in our tour group.

DSC02601So when my son made his comment, I was stunned, to say the least. For the record, it came in the form of a text. I texted back a question, “Why?” He said he liked seeing different schools and kids and other parts of the country. Well, it would’ve been nice if he had said something about that while we were dragging him on those tours.

The lesson to be learned: your kid might be getting more from these college visits than he or she is willing to let on.

I’ve written several posts about college tours. Here is some additional advice.

Use the upcoming February break for some tours I’ve always recommended Spring Break as a time for college visits. But whether your school district offers a long weekend or a whole week off during the President’s Day break, seriously consider using the time to take a look at some colleges.

Visiting colleges during February also introduces your teen to what is likely the coldest and/or snowiest month in northern climates. Better to find out ahead of time that she’ll be walking across campus in frigid temperatures some days. And if your student wants to escape to warmer temperatures down South, she can find out what warm really means during the winter months.

Seniors should take “accepted students tours” These programs provide more relevant information at this point. Here’s a chance for your teen to start pairing down the list of colleges and get a little closer to making that final decision.

Consider setting up appointments with a department head, and ask to talk to students in the program and/or for a tour of specific facilities—like science labs, music studios, etc. These details make comparing colleges easier.

Encourage your teen to schedule the tours or appointments; it’s good practice for when he’s actually at college and will have to handle his own administrative work.

Take a friend or two along Obviously this works best when visiting a college within driving distance. Your teen might find it more relaxing to have someone her own age to share her impressions with. Plus you could be offering an opportunity to kids whose parents can’t make time to take them on a tour themselves.

Talk with other parents and see if a few of you can take turns visiting colleges with the kids. Could be a win-win for everyone, especially if they’re day trips.

Visit colleges of various sizes In the beginning, your underclassman may have no idea how big a school he wants to attend. Try out a few different ones. Start with the small one first because large schools overwhelm many kids when it’s their first time looking at colleges. Remember, most high schools are miniscule compared to almost any college campus.

Make the effort to visit if your teen seems interested Some kids do know which colleges they’d like to see. Consider yourself lucky and go with it, even if you don’t agree with all of the choices. Touring is about exploring options and learning what appeals to your student. She’s taking the initiative and that’s rarely a bad thing.

College touring is interesting, overwhelming, enlightening, scary and fun. Take the plunge and maybe your teen will find it worth the time, too.

Share your thoughts on college tours in the comments section below.

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4 Responses to Hitting the Road for College Tours

  1. Roseann Barrese says:

    Something we did to help make the college tours less painful for our daughter was to buy a school t-shirt at each school. She asked for a t-shirt at the first school and we just continued on. She had a relatively small number of schools we were touring. The basic t-shirts were usually relatively inexpensive. Finding the book store on campus and poking around the book stores was always interesting and she has a small collection of shirts she now exercises in. We also tried to eat at each campus. Often the college would include a lunch pass, but even if it didn’t, we found the eating venues a good place to learn a lot about each school – both from the people watching standpoint as well as their food offerings. It gave us a bit of time to chat with each other about the school and decide if we needed to address anything else before heading home.

    • Thanks, Roseann. We did the t-shirt purchases, too. We have a nice collection between the two kids. Eating on campus is a good idea. Seeing how the students act and look can give your high schooler a sense of whether they’ll fit in on that campus.

  2. We even approached some of the students at the schools we visited and asked how they felt about being there. Some of their answers were priceless but at one school everyone had positive things to say and that college is one of my high school junior’s picks at this point.

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