College Visits: Do’s and Don’ts
As Spring Break is approaching, many families of high school students are planning their college visits. Here are some tips to make this time enjoyable and informative.
1. First and foremost…planning ahead is key! You may love to improvise, but this is not the time. To maximize your time and success, you must do your homework prior to departure. I advise to split the work as follows: student and parents decide on an area and colleges of interest. Parent/s: book the tours, calculate travel time to and between schools and book hotels. Students read the websites of the schools you are going to visit, take notes and prepare questions based on what you read.
2. There is no “start-time” to visit colleges, and experts say the earlier the better. I agree that it is beneficial for a student to visit a college at a young age, so they can visualize what it is like to be in college. However, until the age of 15 a youngster is not developmentally ready to understand the nuances between the schools and what makes one a better fit than another. So, if a student has seen a particular college at age 12, he/she should visit again at age 17.
3. The ideal time to visit is when the college is in session, and the student is not missing school, making it the ideal time during Spring Break. As high school and college time usually overlaps, most families opt to visit schools on some of the high school vacation time during junior year.
4. Budget for 2 ½ to 3 hours per college. If the distances allow, a family can visit 2 colleges per day.
5. Make sure you include at least one school of each of these types: small liberal arts college, big state school, research university, urban campus, suburban campus, rural campus.
Tips for Parents:
1. This is a very special time for your family: your child is starting to spread the wings and look for a good nest for the next 4 (critical) years of his/her life. It is an opportunity to engage in conversation and share a quality time with your child. If possible, avoid bringing along younger siblings.
2. Listen to your child’s opinions. Parents should take a step back during the visits and let the teens ask questions. Let them “own” the experience.
3. After visiting a school, refrain from being judgmental and give your child the opportunity to form his/her own opinion.
Our Do’s and Don’ts during campus tours:
- Do ask real life questions. This is your opportunity to learn the nuances that the website doesn’t mention!
- Do ask “personal” questions like “Why did you chose this school over others”.
- Don’t ask too personal questions like “how much debt did you accumulate?” Instead, Do ask “how much debt does a graduate typically owe” or “how is the institutional financial aid utilized”
- Don’t text or take phone calls during the tour.
- Do ask about the student body, class size, faculty style, TA’s style.
- Do not leave the tour unless you told the guide ahead of time that you would do so.
- Do ask about the job placement rate after graduation
- Do ask about the social scene, clubs, parties and sport events. Be specific to get a specific answer. (Do most students live on campus? Where do the parties usually take place? What percentage of the students is involved in Greek life?)
- Do look at the bulletin boards to learn what students do on campus and what the social scene is like.
- Do go to the dining hall and sit for lunch or a snack. This is a great opportunity to interact with students and ask about their experience in the school.
- Do ask students for specifics: “what are the things you like about this school, and what don’t you like?”
- Do print the form below and fill out one for each school you visit (my suggestion: do it the day of the visit). It will help you a) Remember what you saw, and b) Compare apples to apples!
Additional tip if you are interested in the school:
- You may want to ask for the guide’s contact information to ask questions in the future.
- Make personal contact with someone in the admissions department.
- When you arrive home, write a thank you email to the person you spoke to.
- If you will need to apply for financial aid, make an appointment with a financial aid officer to discuss your options.
Click to retrieve your College Visit Form