Planning ahead can help you and your child to get the most from campus visits and college tours. Is your child going to make this visit on her own or will a parent accompany her? Will your child attend a formal tour or do a self-guided tour? Do you want to take the family along and incorporate the visits into a family vacation? If so, you’ll need to plan your time carefully to make sure that your college-bound child gets a chance to make the most of her visits, while still keeping younger brothers and sisters (and you!) entertained as well.

Research the college

Your child should do some research on the college before she arrives on its campus, especially if she has an interview scheduled. Here are a few ways for your child to get ready:

  • Review the school’s website, course catalogs, social media page, and any other information of interest.
  • Talk to currently enrolled students or alumni about the college.
  • Contact the admissions office and let them know your child is interested in the school and so you’re coming to visit. Open the lines of communication and feel free to ask smart questions now or after your visit.

Schedule your college tours

Pick a time that’s convenient to your family, but try to visit while the school is in session. That way, your child can sit in on a lecture or stay in a dorm overnight. She’ll get a better feel for the campus if she’s there on a day when classes are in full swing. Your child should also schedule the time she spends on campus, to make sure she experiences the parts of campus life that are most important to her:

  • Find out how often college tours run, and if you have to sign up in advance.
  • To save time, get a map of the school. You don’t want to spend half your day trying to park or find the admissions office.
  • If an interview is suggested, be sure to make an appointment.
  • Consider scheduling a meeting with the financial aid officer.
  • If your teen is curious about a club, program, or sport, arrange to attend a practice, rehearsal, or meeting.

As a parent, you will certainly be welcome to accompany your child on the campus tour. And the admissions office may also welcome you at a group information session.

Keep in mind that this campus visit is really meant to help your child get a feel for the college. Your support is important, but it is very important that your teen is able to explore the college on her own. If you’re traveling as a family, you should plan to occupy other family members with alternate activities while your college-bound student explores the campus in depth.

Take pics and notes!

Was it X College or Y University that had that excellent gym? Where did I talk to that helpful psychology professor? Your child may think she’ll remember everything, but she may be surprised how colleges start to merge after she’s seen a few. Talk in advance about how your child can record crucial info, her impressions, and follow-up questions for future reference. Consider bringing a notebook and pen or figuring out which app will be best for jotting down notes while you’re visiting.

Focus on what’s important to your child

Your teen should make a list of what college characteristics are most important to her, so she knows what to look for when she arrives. Don’t worry, she can update that list as she tours schools and learns more. Does your child feel overwhelmed in a large lecture hall? She should check out the class size. Does your child have her heart set on joining a sorority? She should see what the Greek system is like on campus. Is there a major that your child wants to pursue? She should talk to current students or professors in that department.

Once your child has developed — and updated — a list of preferences, she should use it to evaluate and compare the schools on her college-application list.

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Updated: June 27, 2018