College Tips For Parents on Campus Visits (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2: From Parents... For Parents

College tips for parents on campus visits

In Part 1 of College Tips for Parents on Campus Visits, we highlighted the factors that matter most to Mom and Dad during a college trip and how they compare to what students expect out of their visits. Also, we described ways that parents can help teens have the best experience possible.

With Part 2 of "College Tips for Parents on Campus Visits," we asked participants, "What is your top piece of advice when visiting colleges?"

Below are some of the responses we received. Special thanks to the great moms and dads who contributed!

1. Encourage your teen to research colleges (and do your own research as well.)

Knowing about the schools that you are visiting allows you and your student to plan a college trip more tailored to his / her interests, whether it is athletics, the arts, or a specific academic program.

Before you hit the road, help your teen connect with resources that will make the college trip more personally meaningful. Suggest that he or she take a look at college websites, speak with a school counselor, and review the activities that a school offers for prospective students, like overnight visits.

Parents should learn about the colleges in which their student has interest. In addition, they can explore other schools that the student has not yet considered but that might be a great fit. Attending parent workshops, going to college fairs, and being active in school events related to the college search are all ways for you to learn more.

2. Teach your teen to be a savvy shopper.

In part, campus visits are a way for colleges to sell themselves to your teen. This means that a college may highlight its best features. However, based on our college tips for parents, you and your teen will also want to know the drawbacks at each school.

Since you are an experienced consumer, you can teach your child the value of asking questions about the issues that concern him or her. For example, if you are visiting a cold-weather college during the spring and student activity is lively on the quad, your teen may want to know what the school is like when the snow starts falling. Or, if a student is not interested in Greek life and a college bills itself as "very social," it might be good to know whether the school is fun for someone who does not pledge.

Parents from the Go See Campus community remind us that this is a good discussion to have before your trip (and not during.) That way, you won't damper a teen's enthusiasm while you are on campus by emphasizing the school's negative qualities.

3. Look for parents-only and students-only sessions.

The moms and dads who provided our college tips for parents recommended attending parents-only and students-only information sessions (where available.) This gives parents an opportunity to speak alone with admission representatives or a chance to ask questions of current college students.

Why split up? Well, some of your questions about the college search may be very important, but, in the words of one of our parent contributors, "You don't want to embarrass your kids." Topics such as campus safety and laundry facilities matter, and having time apart with college community members lets you get the information you need.

From the perspective of teens, these split-up sessions allow them to ask current college students the questions they might not feel comfortable asking an admission representative. For example, a high school student may have real concerns about the challenge of academics at the college. Or, he or she may want to learn what authentic student life is like without Mom or Dad hovering around. The information they get can help them decide if a school is right.

4. Connect with a current student.

All of our parents agreed about the value of talking with someone who attends the college. However, if you haven't visited campuses before, you may not know how to find a current student to answer questions from you and your teen.

You might be surprised at how big your network really is. Our parents suggest that you try to connect with a current student through:

  • Family members, parent groups, and your other organizations.
  • Your high school's guidance counselor.
  • The college's admissions office.

It can help teens to speak with someone who attended the same high school and is close in age. That way, memories of the college search will still be fresh. The daughter of one parent contributor made this connection at a campus she had not considered before, and her discussions with the college student "brought that school up to the level" where it was one of her top choices.

5. Ask college students what to bring / what not to bring.

As your teen begins to collect acceptance letters to colleges, there are additional concerns you may face as a parent. A couple of key questions can help you prepare him or her for heading off to school in the fall.

For example, one of our "College Tips for Parents" contributors liked asking current students, "What's something that you didn't bring to college that you wish you had brought?" The answers she received helped her and her teen identify items for their shopping list over the summer. Plus, they were able to avoid anxiety and last-minute purchases while moving into the residence hall.

This same parent would also ask, "What do you wish you hadn't brought?" The answers she got helped her identify purchases she could avoid. She and her daughter appreciated how much easier this made packing for college.

After all, it's hard enough to see your teen head out the door.

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