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College Touring Time: 5 Tips to Minimize the Stress

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I’ve always longed to be a 70’s mom. You know, parenting in a time when carpooling didn't exist, moms only needed a general idea of their kid’s whereabouts and everybody smoked. I could learn to love Avon and down a Harvey Wallbanger or two.

Parenting sure seemed less complicated back then. What makes parenting so challenging today (aside from the lack of Tupperware) is that our kids are growing up in such a God-awful competitive and stressful time.

As typical parents of a high school junior, we’re putting the finishing touches on our firstborn before sending him out into the world to make his mark. We’re moving toward the finish line with the ribbon in full sight.

Crawling counts, right???

If you’re in the same boat then you know why junior year is sadly referred to as “Hell Year.” With all the academic pressures, SAT/ACT stress, etc..etc…the college tours often add another layer of stress to the mix. Here are a few ways I try to keep things on an even keel as we shop universities.

Stay In Your Child’s Lane

Choosing a college is a very individualized process. Wherever the kid down the street is going or wherever your friend’s daughter is applying is great for them but not necessarily the right path for your child. Finding a plan that’s a right fit for your son or daughter is crucial in ensuring they will thrive both academical and socially. Put the blinders on. Stay in your kid’s lane.

Avoid Asking Too Many Questions

On the walk back to the parking lot after every tour, I resist the temptation to ask all the annoying questions I so desperately want to know. “So, did you like it?” “Would you apply?” “Should you do Early Decision?” Instead, I find something general to comment on like “What a beautiful campus” or “Great tour guide.”

All those questions I’m dying to ask are already running through his head. No need to ask. Give him time to process. Let him start a dialogue when he’s ready. If I sense he’s feeling overwhelmed I’ll say something like, “Hey, we’re just gathering information today, that’s all. We’re not deciding anything. Now, who wants lunch?”

Pros and Cons List

Before we headed out on our first college tour, I purchased two notebooks so my son and I could each list the Pros and Cons of each university.

(Whether he’s actually filling his out or using it for scrap paper remains to be seen).

After a while all of these schools start to blend together so it’s helpful to have a place to reference the specifics on each college. It’s also helpful to notate the date of the tour as he’ll need that for the application. I also jot down the school’s stats on enrollment and acceptance rate so we have that info at a quick glance.

Take A Break From All the College Talk

After a full weekend of touring college campuses, I make a conscience effort to not use the “C word” (meaning “college”, of course) for at least a week. Let it settle. Let him digest. When the topic comes up again you stand a better chance of having a less stressful and more productive dialogue with your teen.

Let Them Know You’re in Their Corner

It’s a stressful time for us parents, as well. We all just want so much for our kids. They pick up on our stress. It’s important for them to know we’re on their side no matter what happens. We’re on the same team. Remind them that we are here to help and support in any way needed.

Now, don’t think for a minute I don’t throughly annoy my teens every time I ask about homework, give unsolicited advise, forget to buy Doritos,…say “Good Morning.”

Regardless, I try to make every effort to be somewhat of a calming factor as they navigate through this all important phase of their lives. So let’s all take a deep breath, relax, pour ourselves a glass of Tang and hopefully soon we’ll all be taking that Victory Lap together.

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