Should You Go on Campus Visits With Your Parents?
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A campus visit is the best way to gauge whether a college is a good fit. You can learn about academic and social offerings, culture and extracurriculars, and get a good feel for the school. But will having parents along for the visit help or hinder you in determining which college fits you best?
Visiting Colleges With Parents Is a Good Idea
Your parents might be seeking certain qualities in a college; you may have other priorities. It’s possible you won’t see eye to eye on all your plans. Still, there are important benefits to having parents with you when you check out prospective schools.
Parents’ help is valuable in coordinating travel, accommodations and logistics. They can help you get to campus and the surrounding areas more easily. When you visit colleges, allow time to explore nearby districts or cities together. Gauge the distance between your school and other attractions. How’s the public transportation? Where do students go on weekends? How safe does the area feel?
Another handy thing about having parents along during campus visits is that they notice benefits and drawbacks that you won’t. You’ll be busy listening and enjoying the atmosphere, and may not be able to note and remember everything you hear. Parents can be your official notetakers and photographers to help you remember more of your visit. Having witnesses to your experience lets you to evaluate and compare schools more fully once you get home.
Prepare Together Before Each Visit
Before you go on visits, check college websites. Take virtual online tours with your parents. Prepare lists of questions you’d all like answered. Some questions will be answered during the tour, but you’ll have others. Check out college website FAQ pages. Popular topics that students and parents usually have questions about include:
- Academic requirements and opportunities
- Financial aid and work-study programs
- Majors and honors programs
- Social events, clubs and weekend activities
- Study abroad opportunities
- Tutoring and counseling resources
- Residence halls and other housing options
- Internships and career assistance
- Intramural athletic programs
- Health care options
- Campus safety
Discuss Expectations Beforehand
Before campus visits, discuss which events you’ll attend together. You might suggest splitting up and looking around separately for part of your time, since you may feel freer to ask some questions or start conversations when you’re on your own. Set a time and place to meet up with your parents after you’ve had a chance to explore.
Talk with your parents about the importance of letting you initiate interactions with others on campus. It helps if you ask most of the questions during the visit; this is a good time to practice taking initiative. Your folks can foster independence by letting you take the lead in establishing your connection to the campus. Yes, they deserve answers to their questions, too, but it’s best if parents don’t take over events or direct your responses.
You might schedule admissions interviews during some college visits. While admissions officers may tell parents that they’re welcome to join in, colleges really want to get to know you. You want to be at your most comfortable during interviews, and having parents present might make you tense.
Go Beyond Canned Tours and Presentations
College visits should involve more than attending tours. Spend time wandering the campus and talking to students other than your tour guide. If you can, talk with a professor in your major. If you plan your college visit at least a month ahead, and time it during the school year, you can probably arrange to meet with a professor through the admissions office.
You might arrange to attend a class or two. This is often expected if you visit a college during your mid-winter or spring break. You will feel more comfortable doing this on your own without your parents there to draw attention.
Talk with parents about what you’d like to do with them during college visits, and what you want to do on your own. You may have questions about policies or resources that you want to ask without parents present, or you might just want some quiet time to clear your head.
You can split up and explore some on your own, either for meetings with admissions officers, students or professors, or while on tours or other activities. Maybe you want to talk with student groups. You might want to ask about health care counseling and resources on campus, for example, or information about LGBTQ support and activities. Many students speak comfortably about these issues with their parents present, but some feel inhibited. Consider how you might get your most important questions answered during a visit.
Ask Parents to Let You Form Opinions Before They Weigh In
Naturally, parents want to bring up benefits or concerns and ask relevant questions during college visits. They may help you with a large financial commitment, and they have insight and experience which could benefit you—they have a right and a reason to care deeply about where you attend school. However, you’re looking for your college. If they rush in quickly with positive or negative reactions, you won’t have a chance to truly gauge your own reaction.
Visits often prompt immediate positive feelings. It may take days, weeks, even months of visits to colleges before you or your parents can balance initial good feelings with critical evaluations about what each college offers. When parents push opinions about colleges quickly before their kids have time to develop their own reactions, teens often find it harder to be open with parents during and after future college visits.
You want to make sure a college is a good fit for you, not for your parents, though their assistance and input may be very helpful. While you don’t need to spend every minute together, your parents’ logistical aid, perspectives, and observations can help you glean more valuable information than you could on your own.
With preparation, discussion, and an emphasis on moving toward independence, you and your parents can plan visits that will help you maximize your time and provide a fuller understanding of how well each college might fit your needs.
The CollegeVine Blog Helps You Prep for College Visits
Check out these blog posts while you’re planning your next college visit:
Parents: Should Your Student Participate in an Overnight Admission Visit?
Should You Visit College Campuses as a Freshman or Sophomore?
What to Do After You Visit a College
Parents, Make the Most Out of College Tours With Your Teen
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