You are about to embark on a wonderful journey with your child: the college tour. Nerves may be high as you feel the pressure to make this American rite of passage perfect. Give that expectation up—your college tour won't be perfect. Your student will think the tour guide is dumb or will make a snap decision about the campus after being there for less than five minutes. Or, even more frightening, your student will fall in love with a college that you don't like. Underneath all of this, some pretty tricky dynamics are at work. Your student is ever so slowly moving toward independence and a life away from you. That's scary—and kind of sad.
But if you recognize and come to terms with those dynamics, college tours can be a lot of fun. You get to visit new places and learn about amazing programs that your student may experience. More importantly, you get to spend some quality time with your child. Even if it feels stressful in the moment, you'll likely look back on these trips years from now with great memories.
So how do you make the most of your college tours?
Our #1 advice is to slow down and ask a lot of questions. Ideally, you'll want to talk with more than just the admission staff. Stop a few students during your stay and ask them what they like and don't like about their school. If you can talk to a professor or two, even better. Most people love the school they go to or work at and will be happy to chat.
6 Questions To Ask Others
As you make your rounds, here are the six questions you should ask:
How many courses are taught by actual professors and how many by teaching assistants?
Is the teaching innovative and discussion-/project-oriented, or is it mostly lecture-based?
How much help do students get from professors outside of the classroom?
What opportunities are there for undergraduate research?
What is unique about this college? What are your favorite traditions?
What do students do on weekends? Do they all go home or hang around on campus?
You can find some basic answers to these questions online, but talking to students and professors on campus will give you the most authentic insight. And if you know the answers to those six questions, you'll have a well-rounded view of what the school is really like.
3 Questions To Ask Yourself
But it's not all about asking other people questions. Your student needs to be asking themselves some tough questions too. Selecting a college is a big decision, so students should really dig deep as they think about these Big Three questions after each tour:
What three words best describe your overall impression of the school?
What three things did you like most about this school?
What three things did you not like about this school?
With so many college tours melting together in your student's memory, it can be easy for them (and you!) to forget their impressions. Encourage them to write their answers to these questions on their phone or a notepad. Then, when all is said and done, they can look back at their notes and be brought back to campus.