Tips for Successful College Visits

Dominique Dragon |

If your child is approaching college-age, you might be thinking about planning some campus visits. These visits can provide very valuable information that just can't be gleaned from a website, brochure, or visit with a designated college representative. But how do you choose which colleges to visit? And how do you make sure those visits are worthwhile? Here are some tips to maximize your time and enjoyment on the campus visit circuit.

Decide where to visit: When your child is seriously considering where to spend their first several years away from home, it's obviously a great idea to visit and check things out in person if you can. But not all families have that option, and making the choice about which colleges to visit depends on the time and resources available. Visiting a college is recommended if your child is deciding between several top choices, or if they're unsure whether a college is really going to be a good fit.

Set boundaries: Head off potential conflicts with your young adult child by having an open discussion about what's important to them, and what's important to you in relation to the visit. Make plans to visit some places together, and allow your child to do and explore some things by themselves.

Prepare questions: As any professional knows, the key to getting what you want is often asking the right questions. That, in turn, depends on knowing what you want in the first place. Both you and your child should prepare a list of questions for potential professors, admissions counselors, and students.

Take in the environment: It may seem obvious, but don't forget to use your college visit to explore and experience things you wouldn't be able to otherwise. Attend a campus concert or lecture, check out local student hangouts, and get to know the town your child might be living in.

Take notes: If you're visiting more than one college, it's a good idea to take notes and help your child rate each campus on criteria that matter to them. Do they feel welcomed and comfortable? Can they see themselves living in the dorms? Are the programs and academics inspiring? Having your child keep a record of their thoughts will help them to see clearly and make an informed decision.

Visiting in the time of COVID:

Are college visits still worth it during a pandemic? The answer is: maybe. If someone in your family is high risk, it may make sense to stay home. But if you get creative and commit to learning more about the colleges your student is considering, you can still go beyond the brochure and get a better understanding of the places you would like to have visited. Take a virtual tour, contact current and former students; research the town, the weather, the professors, and do what you can to help your student learn as much as they can without an in-person visit. If you do decide to make the trip, be sure to find out each college's requirements for visiting during COVID. Take as many precautions as you can to minimize your risk, and be prepared to skip or postpone your trip if you or your family are sick or exposed.