Wednesday’s Parent: Getting the best out of college visits

Campus this way. Pjhoto by Wendy David-Gaines

Campus this way. Pjhoto by Wendy David-Gaines

The purpose of a college visit is to decide whether or not to attend if given the opportunity. It can help refine the college list, determine whether to submit an admission application, and choose to accept an admission offer. It can improve chances for admission by demonstrating interest in a school and provide fodder for essays asking students to explain why they want to attend. It’s also why college visits are best when students and parents linger longer and go back to revisit.

Such plans often go awry because students can react emotionally. They may want to leave the college tour after the first stop or announce the school is off the list before you have a chance to park the car. They may change their mind later and want to go back because they re-researched after they chose a different major or decide their original second choice college is now number one after Admitted Student open houses.

Don’t expect a reasonable explanation. Ask your student why and he’ll probably just shrug. How does a teen tell mom that the campus gave him the creeps or dad there was not one current student who shared her views that a fave campus activity was lame? Or that firmly voiced beliefs did a 180 in a matter of months?

Smooth this bumpy ride with a frank parent-student team college visit talk. Each family member can describe expectations and brainstorm ground rules. Here are some more helpful tips:

A better way to visit colleges

Top 10 nonacademic reasons why parents and students visit colleges

Top 10 questions to ask on college visits

Wednesday’s Parent: Parent role in college visits

Wednesday’s Parent: Collegecations

Read Suzanne’s post: My College Visit Experiences

__________________________________

Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, February 25, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Z. Kelly Queijo, Founder and President of Smart College Visit and #CampusChat and our team of college parent experts. Please join @SuzanneShaffer @collegevisit and me-@pocsmom and bring your questions and comments.

RECAP: Don’t worry if you missed any college visit pointers from our chat. Read our transcript: #CampusChat Recap 2/25/15: Planning the Perfect College Visit.

Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from http://www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Parent role in college visits

Campus this way. Pjhoto by Wendy David-Gaines

Campus this way. Pjhoto by Wendy David-Gaines

Visiting a college is a great way to evaluate a “good on paper” school but students and parents have different roles. Suzanne and I already gave our tips about why these trips are so important on Wednesday’s Parent. I called my post Collegecations because it’s the best way to check student-college fit and get a vacation. Now it’s time to focus on each family member’s function.

So take those college lists on the road to visit schools for the first time or reevaluate those that offered admission.

These are five parts parents play during a college visit:

  1. Fly on the Wall Step back and watch your college-bound child’s body language. You will know his level of comfort, excitement and interest about the campus and its current/prospective students without saying a word. It also will encourage him to take the lead in finding the place he wants to learn and earn his college degree. Parents cannot expect their student to do his best unless he is vested in the college process.
  2. Chief of Security The teen years should be called the “super teen years” because teenagers often feel invincible. Parents, loaded with the wisdom of experience, can spot dangerous conditions with a single glance. While your student is busy looking for what is important to her, parents may focus on the campus security systems such as blue lights and safety escorts. Seek out the Campus Security Office to learn about campus and community crime stats and policies/procedures to keep current students safe.
  3. Voice of Reason Dorm rooms, student centers, club lists are important but when parents find their student ignoring the classrooms, library and placement office, it’s time to speak up. Redirect focus on academic and internship opportunities that will determine the value of a college education.
  4. Financial Advisor It’s hard for the young to think ahead and appreciate the problems of juggling heavy student debt while supporting a desired lifestyle. Parents may provide perspective by analyzing costs, projected future income by career choice, and standard of living with their student. Include a stop at the Financial Aid Office for information about college costs, net price, scholarships and any other programs to help pay the college bill.
  5. Logistics Officer When attending college, students have their room and board set but parents have to arrange these every time they visit. Take time to scout out available accommodations, eateries and methods of transportation. Parent travel costs are not included in the cost of attendance (COA) so families must include them on their own. For more info on additional costs, check out POCS COA and to help plan a collegecation check out Smart College Visit’s Explore Colleges.

Read Suzanne’s blog about the student role in college visits.

__________________________________________

Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Collegecations

Take a collegecation, Photo by Philip Taylor

Take a collegecation, Photo by Philip Taylor

If you enjoy mixing business with pleasure then you are going to love visiting colleges. It’s the best way to check student-college fit and get a vacation. I call the trip a collegecation (family vacay + college visit).

Why visit
You wouldn’t buy a house or car without checking it out so why wouldn’t you be a good consumer about another expensive purchase? Colleges are in the business of education and the product they offer are campuses, housing, food, courses, other students, professors, programs, activities, job/grad placement records, retention rates and other stats in a specific location. It’s going to be up to the student to use what’s available while earning a degree. During a collegecation, students can see what the opportunities are and how they relate to the best chance of future success.

Three part plan
It’s time to take your college list on the road and plan your collegecation. Get ready to pack your bags with a camera (or a smartphone), comfortable walking shoes and school appropriate clothes.

1. Select a time
Decide how much time you have for your collegecation and when you are going. Determine how many schools you can visit on this road trip by allotting at least day and a half at each college location plus your travel time to get there. (Refer to Step Three for best travel dates).

2. Choose the Schools
Go to your college list. Choose the schools you want to visit in one geographic area given the amount of time you have (see Step 1).

3. Plot the Course
Take out a map (real or virtual) and mark off each chosen college’s location. Plan the trip like a road trip vacation; make note of attractions and special events along the way, in the area of each school, and on campus. Many schools offer free or low cost museums, library and academic collections, hiking trails, gardens, lectures, concerts, theater and sporting events. Also list best dates, prices and reservations needed. Include a fave activity for all collegecation participants.

Check out college and tourist websites for info about what’s happening on and off-campus and details about the area, lodging and restaurants.

Before you go, let the school know of the student’s interest in visiting. Better yet have him make the call to reserve a spot for the family on an information session and college tour.

He can also pre-arrange a solo on campus experience. Your student may have an interview, attend a class, shadow a current student, or spend an overnight with a current student, depending on what the college offers. This will also give the rest of the family some downtime.

Collegecation
Here are some major tips, once you are on the road:

  • Before you go Brainstorm questions your student can ask the interviewer, tour guide, current students, admissions and other college staff. Colleges expect their students to be mature and independent so prepare your child to take the lead.
  • On the way Before stepping one foot on campus, check out the surrounding area. Is it rural, suburban or urban? Does the student like what she sees? She should record her initial impressions and feel free to take photos. As for you, are there places to stay and restaurants to eat when you come for an extended college visit?
  • On campus As you enter the campus, observe the details and make mental note. What are current students doing? Are they smiling, interacting, studying? How does the campus look? Is it well-maintained and easily navigated? Eat in the cafeteria to try out the food. Toss a ball in the college quad for fun. Attend the planned college activities and roam around speaking to staff and students. Does your student feel like it could be home for the next few years? Take more photos to remember which school is which and to revive memories about the visit.
  • Have fun A collegecation wouldn’t be a vacay without some fun activities, downtime and personal space. Take advantage of enjoying while learning more about the college and surrounding community.
  • Before you leave Have your student take a second look. Has her opinion changed? After a good night’s sleep and time to absorb the experience, return to the campus to spend some more time. Have your student take a last look around. Is her final say a school yea or nay?

Read Suzanne’s blog for her take on college visits.

 _________________________________________

Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to  http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Tours

Cliché: Go on tour.    
POCS Reality: Colleges want the college-bound to experience the campus and enjoy their visit.     

Want to take a college tour? There’s an app for that.

If you are college-bound and are trying to figure out if a college is a right choice for you, go see for yourself. And don’t be surprised if your tour guide is your own smartphone:

According to the The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Starting in a few weeks, Dartmouth will offer self-guided tours using SCVNGR, a mobile application that allows organizations to design game-based outings across campus. Admissions officials hope that offering tours on visitors’ phones will keep them on campus longer and improve their experience.

http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/mobile-game-turns-college-tours-and-orientations-into-scavenger-hunts/33114

Read more: A College Visit Collegecation

POCSmom’s Insight: College visits are all about trying to get the college-bound to fall in love with the college, so they will apply for admission. College brochures, real/virtual tours, and scavenger/geocache games highlight what the college believes are its strengths.

The college-bound can use the college visit opportunity to:

  • Speak with college staff and students to get their insider tips beyond brochure info.
  • Look around for what you want to know, not just what the college is marketing.
  • Take a collegecation (college visit + family vacay) and learn about the college and surrounding area while enjoying free and low cost activities on or near campus.

The goal for the college-bound is to discover how good the fit really is and whether or not it stays on the college list to apply for admission.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student