One of the most helpful things parents and students can do during the college application process is visit a variety of schools that are of interest to them. Though time consuming and potentially quite costly, there is nothing that can take the place of being on campus during a regular school day to get a feel for what the atmosphere is and who the students are that attend a particular school. Planning a successful tour of colleges takes a little work, but it will be worth it when it comes time... to decide where to attend. The difference between one campus visit and another can be the tipping point for many college applicants.
These are some ways to make visits to colleges and universities successful, pleasant and convenient.
01 of 06
Take Every Opportunity to Visit College Campuses
If your family is in a city other than your own, it's a good idea to visit any colleges or universities if you have time. Starting when your child is a freshman in high school, take a detour while on vacation or seeing family to drive by or even take a brief walk or tour of the local school. Even if it's not a place your child is interested in going or a school that isn't within the realm of possibility, it's good to see a variety of schools and the different campuses and student... populations that vary from place to place. Just like buying a house, looking at many options - even those that are out of your price range/GPA/desired location - can help to make a decision more clear when the time comes to accept an offer of admission.
02 of 06
Don't Ask Tour Guides Financial Questions
Campus tours are not the time to gather information about details like financial aid, students loans, dorm expenses, tuition and other financial issues. Tour guides are meant to be ambassadors for the school, focusing on sharing the positive and fun and historic aspects of their school with potential applicants and their families. They are not informed or educated enough to give accurate information regarding individual financial issues. If you and your student would like the opportunity to... talk with someone about finances, make a separate appointment for while you are on campus.
03 of 06
See if a School of Interest Has Overnight Visits
A great way to really get a feel for what a school is like, overnight visits are offered at many college campuses to prospective students. A host welcomes your child for the night, and they get to experience what it's like to eat in the dorm dining facility, sleep in a dorm room, and be around others on a normal school night. Parents can stay at a nearby hotel and then pick up their child to head off to another school to visit the next day.
04 of 06
Avoid the Book Store
It's fun to buy sweatshirts, t-shirts and other paraphernalia at college book stores to take home and wear or display, but once your student has committed to a school, all of those clothes and doodads will be shoved in a closet and never looked at or worn again. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and stay away from the bookstores. They are often the last stop on any college tour, capturing enthusiastic high schoolers and their well-meaning parents and getting them to buy lots of things... they don't need. A t-shirt? That's fine. But make a budget and stick to it.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Don't Overdo It
College tours can be exhausting, and not just because there's a lot of walking involved. The prospect of applying, waiting, and being accepted can be overwhelming for many high school juniors, and for seniors who are in the midst of the process there can be added anxiety and pressure when visiting schools they particularly like. Plan to see only one school per day on any road trip you make.
06 of 06
Look Beyond the Campus
Find other sights to see besides the schools. Especially in bigger cities, it is helpful to get to know where the school is in relation to the amenities and other important spots, like subways, bus terminals, theaters, and shopping. In smaller towns, it's also helpful to look beyond campus and see what is available and accessible for the students and parents. For example, is there enough hotel space for all of the parents for visiting weekend? Is the airport a long distance? These are all... things that can affect the quality of life at any college.