Keeping the Peace During College Tours
This coming school year, high school students and their parents will be spending some time touring college campuses. This is a great opportunity for students, and not just high school seniors, to start exploring their college options. If you’re the parent of a future college student, he or she may have visions of stepping onto a campus and finding that perfect match — which is definitely possible! Whether it’s a long car ride or the massive amount of new information being thrown at you from all directions, campus visits aren’t always easy on students nor parents. These tips for parents are here to help the experience not end up like one of those road trip horror stories. Depending on how you handle the situation, your time with your child can be something to treasure or something that can pull you apart. Here are a few words of advice that may help you keep the peace during your child’s college tours.
Let Your Child Take the Lead
You can admit it. You may be just as excited as your child when you go to take your first college tour together. It’s natural to be eager to see what has changed since you were in school. You may even have a few pages of questions with plans to get each one answered. But, be sure to listen to your child, too. While it may be nice to share your own words of wisdom about your experience in college, it’s even more important to help your child figure out what it will be like for him/her to attend college.
As difficult as it may be, you need to step back and let your child take the lead during the tour. It may be helpful to have him/her write down a few questions prior to the tour, as well as having him/her carry a note pad and pen to jot down other questions that may arise during the tour. Avoid giving your child a walk down memory lane during the actual tour and let him/her take it all in without your immediate feedback. Trust us, you’ll have plenty of time at the hotel, or on the ride back home, to discuss your impressions and make comparisons.
During your first campus tour together, you may soon realized that there are so many things to discuss. Since most campus tours can be fairly brisk, it’s a good idea to document everything for your child, leaving him/her free to take in the moment. Carry a camera (or cell phone) with you and take pictures of buildings, gathering areas and other places of interest. Pick up the campus newspaper (it has quite a bit of information), fliers from campus clubs/organizations, and other materials that may have additional information about the campus. After the tour, encourage your child to look through the materials and take notes on his/her experience while it is still fresh. This will be very helpful down the road when it comes time to write college admission essays, as he/she will be able to document what specifically drew him/her to the college campus. It may also help your student make a final decision, should he/she be accepted to more than one college.
Prepare for Mixed Emotions
Although some of the campuses you visit may live up to your child’s preconceived ideas, many may not. If your child arrives with a certain vision in his/her head and finds the reality to be far from it, he/she may experience episodes of disappointment or even depression, especially if the college was high on his/her list. Of course, you should also expect that there will be one or two of those ‘ah-ha’ moments where your child swears they have found the perfect college and wants to stop looking at any others.
Campus tours can be time-consuming, so we recommend to try not to schedule more than two per day. Be sure to visit while classes are in session, as this will give your child (and you) a better idea of what it will be like when he/she attends. If you have the time, eat a meal in the cafeteria and explore the surrounding community, too. This will give you a taste (literally) of what life will be like for your child.
What’s really important to remember is to enjoy your time together, whether it’s sitting through a slideshow or sipping Starbucks outside the campus library. Each step you take on this journey will be memories in the making. Here’s hoping your college tours will be filled with new discoveries and maybe a few laughs, too.