College visits are an
important part of choosing the right school. They help your child get a feel
for the campus, the students and professors, and the overall atmosphere of the
institution. Visiting colleges inspires your child to finish strong while
looking forward with anticipation to the day he moves into the dorm.
It’s best to visit
all your child’s colleges of choice during his junior year. That way, if your
child is accepted to several schools and is still undecided, he can make return
visits his senior year to help solidify his decision.
It’s a good idea to
plan your college visits. Universities have online scheduling for their campus
tours, but be sure to schedule your visits early as spaces do run out. If your
child already knows what he wants to study, call to schedule an interview with
the head of that department. A friend of mine’s daughter is interested in
studying piano in college. She got a head start and scheduled a tour with her
college of choice’s music department the summer after her 9th grade year.
She interviewed with the dean of music and got a lot of important information
needed to help her prepare for the school’s audition requirements for
admissions. Music and sports are two areas that often require specific
requirements for entry.
It’s important to
visit during the school week when classes are in session and students are on
campus. Here’s why:
We were very
interested in Furman University when my daughter was applying to colleges.
However when we visited, the students appeared somber and serious as they moved
about the campus. The tour director focused on Furman’s academic achievements
and was quite serious herself. Since my daughter is exuberant and
vivacious, she immediately sensed a disconnect with the students. On our way
home, we visited Clemson. The minute we stepped out of our car, a whole
different vibe greeted us. During the tour, it became evident that Clemson was
a school dedicated to school spirit and F. U. N. Our tour director was jovial
and animated as he told story after story of the entertaining and exciting
traditions of the school. My daughter ended up at the University of Georgia,
which was perfect for her—a happy mixture of serious and fun.
Though some tour
guides drive you around campus in a cart, most campus tours require a lot of
walking. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. The best time to visit campuses is
in the early fall or spring when the whether is nice outside.
Many families plan
college visits around vacations. This is an efficient use of time and money and
enables the entire family to be part of one of the most important and exciting
decisions of your child’s life. Why not plan a “college road trip” and visit
all your child’s colleges of choice in one week? It’s a good way to focus in on
the various schools, comparing and contrasting the positive and negative
qualities as you travel to and from the campus visits.
While on campus, be
sure to take time to talk to other students, asking them about their experience
at the school. Do they enjoy their classes? How is the campus life? What’s
their favorite thing about the school? What’s their biggest complaint? Do they
plan to transfer to another school? If so, why? You’ll be so glad you took the
initiative to talk to people who are neutral and aren’t trying to convince your
child to come to the school.
Be certain to find a
student newspaper and have your child read it from cover to cover. He’ll get a
real flavor for the campus, students, and attitudes. He might find important
hidden information that isn’t advertised by the school like crime reports, student
concerns, and issues—as well as lifestyles, events, and policies. You may be
able to find the college’s newspaper online as well.
While there, and
especially if you are visiting several other schools, be sure to take notes. It’s
easy to forget important information, especially if your child has scheduled
multiple college tours in one week.
Most college tours
will give you the option to attend class. Choose a course in your child’s
interest. This can be very inspiring for your child! It will also give you
greater insight into the school, the professors, and the character of the
Before your visits,
help your child formulate important questions to ask about the schools. Write
the questions down so he can ask them during the tour. What does he need to
know about housing, dining, academics, extra curricular activities, parking,
transportation, or sports?
Ask what they are
looking for on the college application. What matters most to them during the
application process? How safe is the campus? What is the neighborhood
surrounding the campus like? Every student has different needs. Be sure you get
clarification on those particular needs:
Is your child
athletic? He should ask about club and intramural sports. Is your child
introverted and used to a quiet environment? Ask which dorms are traditionally
quieter and which are more active. Write it down! It’s easy to forget all those
dorm names. Does your child want to be in a Greek organization? Ask about the
membership process. Does your child long to travel? Ask about the study abroad
programs. Is your child academically motivated? Ask about the honors program
and its benefits.
If you are in need of
financial assistance, schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor to
discuss scholarships and ways to increase your financial aid package.
This is a very
exciting time in your child’s life! You and he are heading down the home
stretch of his education. Make each college visit an adventure, enjoying this
unique time with your child. This could be one of the last opportunities you’ll
have to engage with and build into him before he flies the coop. Be
intentional, but have fun on the journey!