One of the best ways for you and your high school student to narrow down their list of colleges is to visit several campuses in person. It may even be beneficial to start touring colleges together as early as your student’s sophomore year of high school.
Because campus visits can take a decent amount of time and money, it’s best to think ahead. Here are some planning tips to consider as you mark your calendar.
Check school absence policies. Most high schools allow students a certain number of excused absences for college visits. These days typically don’t count against your student’s attendance record, and teachers may be more flexible about homework makeup requirements. You can consider spring break and summer visits as well, just be aware the campus may be quiet.
Group visits together. If possible, visit several colleges at a time that are located close to one another. Plan to spend at least two to three hours at each school. Three schools may be the most you want to visit in a single day. College visits can be mentally exhausting for both you and your student.
To save some money, whenever possible, tour a college or two when you go on vacation, attend family gatherings, or are just going out of town.
Look for discounts and freebies. If you have to travel to schools, ask each college if any local hotels offer lodging discounts to prospective students/families or if they offer on-campus guest rooms. If you were part of a fraternity or sorority, they may offer housing for legacy members. Also take advantage of on-campus meal vouchers offered by the school. Use frequent-flyer points and credit card rewards to pay for travel-related expenses.
Prepare to take a back seat. College representatives strongly suggest that your student set up the campus visit, rather than you. During the tour, admissions representatives will talk primarily to your student and ask them for their questions.
What you, as a parent, can do: Chat with your teen ahead of time about good questions to ask and the kinds of personal information they may wish to share. Plan to ask questions or add comments only if your student forgets something important. Take notes during the tour that you and your student can review later.
Wait for the acceptance letter. If a particular school is far away and travel is expensive, consider waiting until your student finds out if they’re actually accepted. Then plan a trip if the school is one of your student’s top picks.
A final note to keep in mind: If traveling to visit multiple colleges doesn’t fit into your family’s budget, don’t pressure yourself. Visits aren’t a requirement. If you can only go to a couple of schools, narrow down your list by doing some online research with your student. You and your student can still get a good feel for many colleges by taking virtual tours on their websites and watching YouTube videos made by current students.