Parents: Should Your Student Participate in an Overnight Admission Visit?
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As your student narrows down their college list, applies to college, and starts juggling multiple college offers (we hope!), you and your teen need to start thinking about which college is the best choice. After all, when deciding on a college, you should not just focus on the academics. Your student should make sure they’ll be able to get along with their fellow university students and enjoy the overall atmosphere of the campus.
When you and your student do online research about a college and start exploring campuses, you’re really only getting a cursory glance as to what it would actually be like to live on that college campus every single day.
If you want to get a better idea as to what actual student life is like, many colleges offer overnight host programs where admitted students can live like a college student for one day or night. Your student would get to stay in one of the dorms, have a current student help them navigate the campus, and attend a lot of sessions that may give them clarity as to whether this is the college they want to attend.
Choosing to send your child to a college campus for a whole day or night may be a difficult decision for you as a parent, as you’d be entrusting strangers with the safety of your child. In this post, we’ll go over all the pros and cons of overnight admissions visits and give some tips on how to navigate those visits with your student. Perhaps this information can help you decide whether this is something you and your student want to pursue.
Pros of An Overnight Admission Visit
So, what’s the benefit to you and your student from participating in an overnight admissions visit? Here are the basic ones:
- Your student will get a taste of what it’s like to live on their own.
- Your student will understand what it means to live in a dorm or residence hall.
- By allowing them to immerse themselves in the campus culture, an overnight visit could give your student clarity as to whether this college is for them.
- Your student will get to meet other current students and make friendships that they could carry on into the fall semester if they decide to attend that college.
- Your student will get an impression of the university from students who aren’t trained by the Admissions Office to say positive things. It’ll be more realistic.
- Your student will get to see a different side of campus life, and they’ll get to explore anything and everything from how safe the campus is at night to how crowded the libraries are during the day.
- They will be supervised most of the time, so it is a relatively safe way for them to explore the college without you being there.
Cons of An Overnight Visit
- It may be logistically infeasible to drop off and pick up your child from a college campus within the span of 24 hours, especially if the campus is far away from your home.
- If you’ve already done a campus visit at this college, it may seem like your student is exploring things they’ve already explored, hearing things they’ve already heard, and wasting their time at points.
- You’re essentially putting your child’s safety in the hands of some random college students and an overnight host committee.
- You may not always know exactly what your student is doing while they’re on their visit.
- Since dorms are pretty small to begin with, there’s a high chance that your student may be sleeping on the floor of someone else’s housing.
What Should My Student and I Do To Register and Prepare For a Campus Visit
It will most likely to be up to your student to register for an overnight admissions visit with the admissions office. Your student may have gotten a letter or email explaining the program, so he or she can just follow up with whomever contacted them in order to register (or learn how to register). Keep in mind that overnight campus visits fill up their registration quickly, so your student should reserve their spot ASAP.
During the weeks before the visit, the Admissions Office will be in contact with you and your student to tell you everything you need to know. Most importantly, they will match your student with a host, or a regular college student who has agreed to show your student around and let him/her stay in their dorm. The Admissions Office will try and match your child with a host who is pursuing the same major that your student is interested in, which means that your student will have the opportunity to pick their brains about classes, professors, job prospects, etc.
It’s up to your and your student to keep in contact with the Admissions Office and your host to get all of your questions answered. Here are some things that you may want to clarify with the office before you go:
What exactly will your student get to do during their visit? Will they get to attend classes, are there any formal sessions plan, is there an itinerary they need to follow?
Will your student need to bring anything besides their overnight bag, like a sleeping bag and a pillow?
What is weather going to be like during your visit, and is this weather representative of the climate on campus normally?
Is your host and Admissions Office aware of any disabilities, dietary restrictions, or other special circumstances for your student that may complicate your visit?
How to Make the Most of An Overnight Visit
For you as a parent, it’s best to give your student some space during their overnight visit and let them experience the campus in its entirety. We understand that you may be nervous about their safety, but just rest assured knowing that they are in the hands of university professionals who have probably kept students like yours safe during overnight visits for years.
The rest of the journey is up to your student. Here are some things that they can do during their campus visit in order to make the most of it:
1. Ask a Lot of Questions (especially to the host): Your student might want to walk into the visit with a list of questions ready.
2. Try To Attend A Class: Try to attend a class in a subject that you may actually take at the university. You don’t have to take notes during the class. Just sit back and get a feel for what it would be like to learn at this university.
3. Get a Feel For the Campus: Try to explore every bit of the campus, especially the places that aren’t covered on an admissions tour. Figure out whether you actually like the campus environment and whether you could stand it for four years.
4. Take Notes: When attending official information sessions, your student should be making notes of the things that he or she hears. These notes will be good to refer back to later as they make their final admissions decision.
5. Relax: Staying in a foreign place alone for a night can be terrifying. The key is to not think about it too much and instead focus on the campus and all the new things around you. It’s so easy to get lost in the wonder of a college campus, and doing so could assuage your student’s nerves a bit.
What To Do After an Admissions Visit
The work isn’t over as soon as your student leaves the campus after the visit. There are certain action items that you and your student should take to make sure that the trip was really worthwhile. These steps include:
1. Sending a brief thank you note or email to the host and the Admissions Office. If your student enjoyed talking with their host, they should keep their contact information and stay in touch in case he or she decides to enroll in the fall and has any questions.
2. Having your student immediately start reflecting on the experience: What did he or she like? Dislike? Is this the experience that he or she wants for the next four years?
3. While you’re reflecting, you and your student should keep in mind that one night is not going to be completely indicative of the next four years. Especially considering that this visit was organized by an Admissions Office, whose job it is to make your student want to attend the university, the visit may not have been completely revealing or even completely satisfying.
4. Narrow down the decision on where your student will attend college based on this visit.
For More Information
Does your student need some help commiting to a college? Maybe these previous blog posts can help:
Important Next Steps After Receiving A College Acceptance Letter
Parents: 8 Ways To Help Your Teen Make a College Decision
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Committing To A College
Choosing a College: How to Get Started
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