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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Parents, Make the Most Out of College Tours With Your Teen

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The college admissions process isn’t just difficult for the teens who endure it themselves. It’s difficult for their parents, too, and some of us might even argue that we’re up at night just as often as they are, silently stressing about the process. If you’re like many parents going through the college admissions process, you might struggle to find the balance between supportive cheerleader and overbearing taskmaster.


This can be particularly true during parts of the process that you undertake together, such as college visits. You may feel that you have a financial and personal interest in your child’s college search and as such, it can be difficult to take a backseat. Rest assured, though, that you can still support and encourage your child before, during, and after college visits without making the visit more about your interests than your child’s.


In this post, we’ll discuss how you can help your teen to prepare for a college visit, how you can support your teen during a college tour, and how you can help your teen to process his or her impressions afterwards. To learn more about how to make the most of college tours with your teen, keep reading.


How to Help Your Teen Prepare for a College Tour

Before the tour itself, make sure that your teen understands that college tours aren’t a passive process. He or she should be prepared to ask valuable, insightful questions to help guide his or her experience. Encourage your child to research the school in advance, learning about departments or programs that might be of interest and compiling a list of genuine questions, the answers to which might be valuable when it comes time to apply to colleges.


Also help your teen to make a list of “not-to-be-missed” sites, both on and off campus. It’s impossible for a college tour to include every little place on campus, and most include very little or even nothing of the surrounding area. Your student might be interested in seeing all of the freshman housing options, the athletic fields, or the chemistry lab, but these may or may not be featured during the formal tour. Don’t be afraid to seek them out together after the tour finishes up.


Similarly, there might be some off-campus spots of interest, too. Maybe there is a coffee shop around the corner, renowned for being a popular study spot, or a walking trail popular among locals. Maybe your teen is interested in pursuing a job off campus or finding volunteer opportunities. Check these places out now together so that your teen knows what to expect later. Doing some homework ahead of time can mean that college visits are more efficient and effective, leaving fewer questions open when the time comes to send commitment letters.


How to Help Your Teen During the College Tour

Your teen is probably blushing in advance at the prospect of your overbearing excitement and excessive enthusiasm during a college tour. While it’s natural to be excited and to try to get your child excited too, the tour is the time to dial back your own reactions in order to allow your teen to take the lead and shine.


One way to ensure that your student really takes ownership of the experience is by delegating yourself to the spectator role. Allow your teen the opportunity to be the one asking questions and guiding his or her own experience.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need a gag and blindfold, though. You can take some casual notes and pictures without attracting too much attention. Try to record details that you think your student might find valuable later on. For example, if your child is into acting, taking a brief video of the tour as it passes by the theater might be of interest for your child to review later. This is a simple and unobtrusive way to lend a hand, while your student is busy watching and listening.


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How to Help Your Teen After a College Tour

Afterwards, while the college tour is still fresh in your minds, have a thoughtful conversation with your teen about it. Sit down over a cup of coffee or a snack and encourage your student to reflect on the pros and cons that he or she perceived. Be careful not to offer too much of your own perspective at first. It’s important to hear your teen’s unfiltered perspective first. If you feel there are important things that he or she is forgetting, casually mentioning them is one way to steer the conversation without providing too much of your own opinion. Remember, your teen needs to be at the helm for this experience.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t lend your insights. Once your teen has given some feedback, feel free to give yours, too. Try to frame things in a way that is productive for your student. For example, instead of telling your teen that you’re worried he or she won’t be able to get around without a car and limited public transportation options, ask your teen if he or she noticed any bus stations nearby. If your student doesn’t remember, you may suggest that he or she investigates transportation options more in the future.


It can also be helpful to remind your student to write down his or her initial impressions along with a pro/con list as soon as possible after the tour. This will serve as a valuable record later in the college decision process. File it someplace accessible, preferably in the college files that your student has already started.


Visiting colleges can sometimes be a stressful experience for parents and teens alike. Approach the visit as a team, allowing your child to guide the experience, and think of yourself as a sounding board. Lend your insights once you’ve heard your child’s, and remember that this visit can be a time to bond together for a successful and productive college tour.


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To learn more about the parent’s role in the college admissions process, check out these CollegeVine posts:



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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.