College Touring Tips for Parents: What You Need to Know
When it comes to researching potential colleges, there's nothing more important than physically visiting college campuses. It's a great way to get a sense of the campus atmosphere, the environment, and the students.
Your child will quickly learn how comfortable he or she is on the campus. Make sure to get the most out of your campus visits by planning ahead.
Things to consider.
Visit a mix of small and large, urban and rural colleges. Schedule your campus visits at least three weeks in advance. You'll need to call some colleges two months in advance. t's best to visit colleges when they are in session and full of life. Call a school or visit a school's website to learn when it is not in session. Find out if the college has plenty of dorm space. Living in a dorm almost guarantees your child an active social life. Find out if housing is guaranteed for all four years.
Have some fun! Plan to join the ranks of vacationers and visit the best local attractions. Don't visit on a Friday, because many students and even some faculty members are busy with social activities beginning Friday afternoon. Some of the Monday high school holidays are great opportunities to visit college campuses - many colleges are in session on some of these days.
Colleges accommodate prospective students
Most colleges are eager to accommodate student requests for meeting a department chairperson, sitting in on a class, or staying overnight on campus. Admissions staff members are willing to make the necessary arrangements.
Driving to the campus
If you don't have a GPS device, rent one from a website such as GPS Planet or GPS4Rent.com. They will mail the unit to you. The units cost from $6 per day for a basic model to $20 for a top-notch device. If you're arriving by plane or train, make sure to rent a car that has a GPS device. Yes, you can get directions online, but a GPS device lets you explore the area around the college without getting lost.
Check out the surrounding area
At some colleges a large chunk of college life is spent away from the campus. Be bold and have lunch with your college bound kid at an eatery that caters to college students. Get a slice of pizza and a slice of college life!
Touring the campus
Take the official tour and an unguided tour. Arrive early because you may have a difficult time finding a parking space. During the official tour you'll get a taste of college life while visiting dorms and eating at a campus cafeteria. Take the tour before participating in an information session so you'll know which questions to ask.
The admissions office's guided tours are typically designed to show you the best parts of the campus to put the college in the best light. So look beyond the script and the choreography and take your own tour to get a more realistic perspective. Also, don't judge the school by the quality of the tour guide - some are great, some are just alright, and some are obviously bored with their jobs.
During the unguided tour, encourage your kid to talk to students and ask questions. If he or she is shy, get the ball rolling by asking the first question. Most college students are eager to talk to prospective students. If your child is religious, visit the appropriate campus religious center and find out what they provide.
Which school had that great biology department? After visiting a few colleges it's difficult to remember what you liked and didn't like. Write down the good and bad things about the school. You need these notes to make meaningful comparisons. Take notes during the tour because practically no one can retain all the information divulged during a campus tour. Take photographs or videos of the campuses.
Here are some important questions to ask current college students:
I'm thinking about going to this college, what should I know?
What is day-to-day campus life like?
Do students feel comfortable walking around at night on campus and in town?
What do students like most about the college?
What do students complain about the most? (This is usually VERY valuable information)
What type of social activities does the college provide?
Is this a party school? (Parents, hide behind a tree and listen real good!)
What do you do on weekends?
Is the cafeteria food good?
Overnight dorm visits
Some schools provide overnights. Let your teen stay overnight at their two top choices after you're guaranteed they won't be a guest at a keg party! Stay in a nearby hotel room. It's one of the best ways for your child to learn what college life is really like at a particular school.
Leave proof your child visited the college
Some schools use a "demonstrated interest" as a factor for admitting students. They keep track of the amount of contact your kid has with the college.
Visiting a college campus gives you a sense of the vibe of the student body, the campus geography, and a sense of what it might be like to attend the college. Be proactive - don't be a passive recipient of the school's perspective. Investigate and inquire during your campus visits.
Brian Jenkins writes about a variety of topics related to the college experience for BrainTrack.com.