Visiting colleges can be an exciting time for students and parents. To make the most of your college visits, read our suggestions below. These visits provide an opportunity to explore options and discover new places while taking a road trip with your soon-to-be-college-bound child.

By Wendi Ostroff

There are times when students have AHA moments just stepping on to a particular campus “This is the one!” or “I could never go here!” but more often than not, they are indecisive and need time to think and compare. Many students refrain from expressing themselves due to insecurities about where they will be accepted. As a parent, it’s a delicate balance between generating enthusiasm for a particular school and generating enthusiasm for the broader college experience. Step onto each campus with an open mind, and remember, this is your child’s first big decision about their future – help to make it a positive one.

Planning Your Trip 

* Pull out a map and choose the schools you are interested in visiting. It’s possible to tour two schools in the same day if they are close by – but plan for traffic and other delays when scheduling tours. One school per day allows you to explore the campus more fully.

* Schedule tours through the college website. Many tours fill up and require a reservation.

* If you want to sit in on a class, arrange this before arriving on campus.

* Some schools offer interviews with admissions officers. If this interests you, make arrangements with the admissions office in advance.

* Arrange to meet with a coach if you intend to participate in intercollegiate athletics.

While on Campus 

* Arrive in plenty of time for your scheduled tour and information session. If you arrive early, wander on your own until the tour begins.

* Most questions about acceptance rates, test scores, and deadlines are listed on the website or can be answered by a college counselor. Use your tour guide for questions about campus life, dorms, activities… the stuff not listed on the website. Let students do most of the talking. If your son/daughter is quiet, that’s ok; they are processing as they go.

* If the tour does not step inside the library or dorm, ask about visiting these places on your own time.

* Plan to eat a meal or have a coffee on campus. This is a great way to see the students and get a feel for daily life. Talk with current students about their experiences with the school.

* Visit the fitness center, stadium, or athletic center to get a sense of the size of the program and the role of athletics on campus.

* Pick up the campus newspaper and any other student publications.

* Spend some time in the community around the campus. Walk or drive through the neighborhood to see where students live off-campus. Check out the stores, restaurants, museums, transportation…

After the Visit 

* Make notes about what you liked and didn’t like about the school to discuss with your college counselor. This can lead to suggestions for other school visits and will help to narrow the list.

* Write down the names of people you met who can answer questions for you at a later date.

* If you interviewed, send a thank you note to the admissions officer.