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One of the shared experiences of most women over 40 is sending your kids off to college. I have already done it once with my son and now, I again embark on the process with my daughter. This is the second post in the series Parent Checklist For College that I am writing over the next year or so.
As some of you may know, I am a southern American gal who lives with my family in Manila, Philippines. Even
though that is a long way from the US, my husband and I prioritized a trip to the US this summer so that my daughter could tour some colleges before her senior year.
My daughter is the youngest of our two kids, so this is the second time we have visited perspective colleges. College visits are valuable family exercises for several reasons:
- They show your child that you are willing to prioritize their needs and desires.
- They allow you to see your child in a “grown-up” light.
- They build a sense of shared excitement about their future college experience.
I have really enjoyed sharing this experience with my daughter. Because of the circumstances, she and I have done this on our own. In retrospect, I realize now just how special it has been to have this mother/daughter time to take a peek into her future.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Colleges?
There are several different factors to consider when choosing a time frame for college visits. If it is a priority for you to visit when the school is in full swing, then schedule your tours for early Fall of your child’s senior year. Otherwise, our family has found the summer break to be an excellent time to schedule college visits.
Why visit in the summer? Probably the greatest plus for the summer tour is that your child is free from the many responsibilities and time restraints of high school. High school students are extremely busy! It can be difficult to squeeze college visits into their already hectic schedules. Also, for some students, the thought of college is just too overwhelming when they are already burdened with heavy academic demands and other extra-curricular activities.
If you have yet to start this process you may be thinking, “Isn’t it a little early to look at colleges when my child hasn’t even started their senior year?” Actually, you will be surprised at how fast that senior year goes. Also, many colleges have consideration and scholarship deadlines that start as early as November of their senior year.
Here are some things to consider when scheduling college visits.
1. Plan ahead. Most schools have a certain number of scheduled slots per week.
You can register for a tour slot on most university websites. Keep in mind that this process takes time. It took me about 2 hours to schedule three college tours by the time I searched for the websites and went through the various confirmation processes.
Some schools plan for you to see an admissions officer and others don’t. Our first tour was at a school that included an opportunity to speak with an admissions counselor, so I just assumed that all schools ran their tours the same way. I scheduled an afternoon tour time for our second school only to discover that we would need to visit the admissions office separately. This was significant as we had driven some distance to get to the school and had only allotted that day for our visit. We ended up having to cut our tour short so that we would have enough time to visit the admissions office before it closed.
3. Read the school’s website to find out where you are supposed to park before you drive to the school.
University campuses are often labyrinths of designated lots and one-way roads. University websites typically have specified parking instructions for visitor parking.
4. If your son or daughter has already taken the SAT/ACT, know their scores before you tour.
University tour presentations often include the average admission statistics of the previous year’s freshman class. If you already know your child’s scores, you can save yourself the mental math activity of trying to figure out how they stack up for admission or different scholarships as they are mentioned.
5. Ask your child how much he or she would like you to talk in the interview.
This conveys an important message to your child. It conveys that college is a grown-up step and that you are considering their preferences. The more active they are in the process from the beginning, the more serious they will take it. My daughter told me what she would like to ask and the things she would be more comfortable for me to ask
6. Your child will likely be sensitive and aware of your biases (ie. alma mater).
Ultimately, you want the best fit for your child, which may or may not be the university you attended.
I know that my daughter will want to attend church and would like to find one that has a lot of college students. While we were visiting, I asked a friend in the area to take us by a local church so she could get a feel for one of the possibilities.
8. Remember, the tour should start on the outskirts of the town/city where the university is located.
You want your child to get a feel for the whole area since they will be living there for 4 years.
9. If you are looking at state universities, research schools with reciprocal tuition agreements.
If you are considering state universities, you may not be limited to just the universities in your particular state. Many universities will offer in-state or reduced tuition to students from neighboring states. So, it pays to research this, especially if you live in a county near the state border.
10. Finally, remember that college tours may involve walking and the elements.
Summer tours can be particularly hot, not to mention those summer showers. An umbrella can come in handy for both. We learned that the hard way!
Hopefully, these tips will set you on the right foot when scheduling college visits for your child. And regardless of anything else, remember that college tours are special bonding opportunities that you will remember for years to come.
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