Touring colleges can be exciting and invigorating, but it can also be stressful and intimidating. Careful advance planning is helpful for increasing the excitement and reducing the stress and intimidation levels. The following 5 tips can help you prioritize what to focus on when planning to tour colleges with your high school student:
1. Take into Account the Logistics of Your Student's Future Career Ambitions
If your student already has clear career goals, those goals are likely to influence which college campuses you should be visiting together. Many career paths in healthcare, education, law and other specializations require state licensure and examinations after college graduation. The colleges in any given state will prepare their graduates to practice professionally in that state, but the credentials your child earns in that state may not easily transfer to another state. For career paths that require such state licensures or other credentials, you may wish to eliminate visits to campuses in states where your child has no interest in living or working after graduation.
2. Schedule Meetings, Tours and Other Sessions in Advance
Check each institution's website to see if there are online signups for campus tours, overnight stays with current students or information sessions. Schedule meetings with financial aid officers, college admissions counselors, coaches and professors well in advance of arrival. It's a good idea for prospective students to sit in on a class or two in each of their strongest areas of interest; and it's best if all those arrangements are made in advance of your visit. Once these activities have been scheduled, ensure that your child prepares for them. S/he should create a list of questions to ask each campus official on the list.
3. Create an Itinerary and a To-Do List for Each Campus Visit
Once you've signed up for tours and booked appointments with school officials, check out your options for filling in your other available time slots. It's a good idea for your student to explore both the college campus and the local area surrounding the campus. Where do students go when they aren't in class? Arrange to have your student check out some of those locales, too.
4. Document the Important Details of Each Campus Visit
It's important for your student to take photos, make notes and perhaps even take some video footage at each campus of interest. It's ideal if the documentation takes place while the experience is happening or shortly after each visit. That way, your student will have a record of each visit's important details to refer to later when writing application essays or preparing for admissions interviews. This is particularly important if you're scheduling numerous visits, as it is all too easy for details of past visits to become blurred together in your memory.
5. Online Study Is a Viable Option -- But You Should Still Visit Each Campus if Possible
The possibility of studying online is opening up huge opportunities for students who wouldn't be able to afford school otherwise. With the proliferation of online degree programs, students now have the option to work full-time after high school and complete their college coursework in their off hours. You might think that online study would negate the need for a campus visit; but it's still a good idea to schedule a visit if possible. Meeting key players at each school in person will help your family understand if that particular school is the right one for your child. It's valuable for your child to meet the professionals s/he'll be dealing with in person. Those meetings can help to facilitate the admissions process and the educational experience that follows. I hope these 5 tips are helpful to you as you plan to tour colleges with your high school student. I wish you all the best with the college admissions process.