Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tips for a Successful College Visit-Look at The Community

When visiting a college it’s also a good idea to explore is the surrounding town and what it offers to students. For example is the campus located in the country or a city? Is there a local public transportation system or do many students bring cars? Are there movie theaters, museums, restaurants, and sports arenas close by or is it mostly bars and bowling alleys and which would your teen prefer?

When it comes time for break how close is the university close to a bus or train station or an airport? For events like Parent’s Weekend or special performances are there hotels or other accommodations nearby for families to stay in?

Don’t be afraid to ask college staff or tour guides how they’d classify the relationship is between “town and gown”. For example do the college students volunteer in the local community organizations or is there a tension between the locals and the fraternity members over underage drinking parties?

Hopefully my three posts will give you and your prospective freshmen some good ideas. Please feel free to comment if you notice anything I've forgotten or find one of the tips especially helpful.

And remember, above all:

Keep a Positive Attitude!
Don’t stress out over the logistics of college visits or the thought of your “baby” leaving home. It’s not a disaster if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, its life, and soon your teen will be experiencing that on their own, without you by their side. Traveling to different campuses together offers you a wonderful opportunity to get to know your teen better as a person and to share some of your own college memories with them.

Along the way you’ll discover that high school students are more than ready to enter this next stage of their life and, trust me, by the time you drop them off at their new dorm room you will be too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Following a few tips that have helped make our numerous college visits positive and successful:

Let Your Teen set the Pace
Once you get to campus, take a back seat. Under no circumstances should you act like the infamous helicopter parent! The experts say, and I wholeheartedly agree, that the best way you can help your teen is by staying quiet and taking notes. The exception to this is if you hear about or see something that your child may not have noticed that you feel would really enhance their visit, like the opportunity to sit in on an academic class or watch an Aeronautics Club fly their model plane. That’s your chance to speak up!

Be Prepared
Paying attention to little details like getting accurate directions and finding out where to park ahead of time make a big difference.

Dress in layers with the weather in mind. Wear comfortable walking shoes and don’t forget an umbrella or sun hat, depending on the time of year.

My boys and I like to carry a backpack with water bottles, a few healthy snacks, a little cash and a credit card, pens, and a notebook in it. This also gives you a place to store the information folders and handouts you pick up along the way.

Look at Everything
Taking a guided tour will give you the opportunity to learn a lot about the campus. However if your prospective freshman has a specific interest (like my music major did) than it’s important to see if there are facilities like a music library and what the performance hall and practice rooms look like. You’ll also want to use the bathrooms, eat the food, check out the laundry facilities, and look at the student lounges, all important places that may not be included on a regular tour.

Picking up both a campus and a local newspaper to read along with any free publications that are available will give you all a good feel for the area culture and how your son or daughter might fit in there. I also take a few minutes to read the fliers on the bulletin boards as we walk around campus to see what kind of club, activities, and special events are available for students.

Ask Questions
Most colleges are very welcoming to their high school visitors and parents. No question is too “silly”; admissions staff and tour guides have heard it all! If your teen thinks of something after they return home, encourage them to follow up by emailing or phoning the school .

Last stop-check out the surrounding community.