Updated: May 27
It’s almost summer and college campuses are starting to open back up for visitors! Parent/child college visits offer a unique and wonderful opportunity to bond and get a glimpse of what the future might look like. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your college-tour trips this summer.
Before you start planning specifics, check colleges’ websites to see what campuses are hosting in-person tours and information sessions this summer. Even if a college on your list is not fully open, you should still be able to take a self-guided campus tour and visit the surrounding neighborhood.
Before your trip:
Plan for a reasonable length of time, no longer than one week, travel days included. For example, you could combine Boston and New York City in one trip, but visiting an additional city, such as Washington, D.C., might feel too long and overwhelming. It all depends on your family’s circumstances and how many colleges you plan to visit in each location. Too many colleges in one trip might make them all blur together in your mind, especially in the summer heat and humidity!
Once you have decided which colleges/cities to visit, reserve your tours and information sessions on the schools’ websites. If two schools are close enough together, you could certainly visit both in one day, but be sure to avoid overscheduling. Build in enough time to travel between campuses/towns and to take in some local tourist attractions. My preference is to tour two schools one day, one the following morning, and then sightsee or travel to the next college town in the afternoon.
Students, research each of the colleges and come up with a couple of questions. These can be about majors offered, research opportunities, school spirit, study abroad, well-being facilities or anything else that you consider important. Your questions may get answered before you get a chance to ask them, but at least you will have prepared for the visit in advance.
On your trip/on campuses:
Take a few notes during the information session or tour, but avoid using your phone for this (you don't want the presenter to think you're texting or Snapchatting!). You can jot down the basics in a notebook and then add more once you’re back in the car or at the hotel. Notes will help you remember details later, especially when it’s time to interview or write your supplemental essays.
Let Mom or Dad ask a question or two. To prevent a cringeworthy moment, talk to your parents ahead of time about what questions they have. It’s ok to let them know what you would prefer they NOT ask about! A little tip for parents: Students are always mortified when their parents ask the tour guide about the college’s party scene or coed dorms:)
Explore the neighborhood/town around the college. Make sure you would feel safe walking to and from campus if you attended school there. Ask about free shuttles for students and other transportation into the closest town.
After your trip:
Write thank-you notes to anyone that you met with personally. Did you talk with any professors or department chairs? Did you interview with an admission officer? Be sure to thank them all within the week after your trip. Email is acceptable, but a hand-written note is preferable.
Organize the notes you took on the trip, perhaps by college. For example, if you loved a school and know you will apply, you could start a Google Doc that has that school’s supplemental essay prompts as well as the notes you took about the school. This will help keep you organized and ready to draft those essays.
Enjoy the college trip! Please reach out to me if you have any questions or need help planning yours this summer.