Planning ahead can help you and your child to get the most from campus visits. Is your child going to make this visit on her own or will a parent accompany her? 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 viewbooks, course catalogs and any other information of interest.
  • Spend some time surfing the college’s Web site.
  • Talk to currently enrolled students or alumni about the college.
  • Some college Web sites let you contact them online, or your child can get their numbers from the admissions office. You may also want to take advantage of these resources to make sure that you’ll have a chance to answer any of your own questions.

Schedule Your Trip

Pick a time that’s convenient to your family, but make sure the school is in session. That way, your child can sit in on a lecture or stay in a dorm overnight. She’ll only get a true 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. Also, consider meeting with the financial aid officer.
  • If you’re curious about a club, program or a 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.

The campus visit is really meant to help your child get a feel for the college. Your support is important to your child, but it is very important that she 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.

Pack a Camera and Notebook

Was it X College or Y University that had that excellent exercise equipment in the 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 her impressions, and any crucial information, for future reference. Consider bringing a notebook and camera, if possible.

What’s Important to Your Child

Your child should make a list of what college characteristics are most important to her, so she knows what to look for when she arrives. 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 a list of her preferences, she should take it to the schools that she plans to visit, and compare each school to the list when she gets back home.

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