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10 Ways Parents Can Help Students on College Visits

PAT   By Pat Walsh – College Counselor

As a parent, whether you are visiting a school for the first time or returning as an alum, it can be fun to tag along on your student’s college visits. That being said, it is important to recognize that you have an important role to play during these college visits. In addition to the typical parental support you give, there are ways to make this experience more productive and enjoyable for you and your student.

Last week, you may have seen my blog post outlining four ways to make campus visits matter. In it, I provide broad-strokes for planning your visit. This week—as families are gearing up for spring break trips to schools across the country—I’m diving into the details. Here are ten ways parents can help their students make the most of these visits:

1. Don’t do drive by visits. Your student isn’t gaining much if you drive through campus. Driving by an institution to learn about a college is like walking by a mattress store to learn about your sleep preferences.

2. Encourage your student to send a thank you note. I can’t stress this enough. A handwritten thank you note to the admission counselor, professor, or tour guide is a great way to show demonstrated interest, maturity, and gratitude.

3. Tell your student that you will be asking questions—and that your student should, too. Preparing and asking questions is a great way to show demonstrated interest. Teach your student that they have a responsibility to get the answers they need. You should also let your student know the types of questions you will be asking (e.g. financial aid, campus safety, etc.) so your student understands that you have a role to play.

4. Meet with a financial aid officer. This tip is especially helpful for families with admitted students who are visiting in the spring. Even if you believe you know the cost of college, you should have the financial aid officer walk you through the costs, merit awards eligibility, interest rates, etc.

5. Debrief with your student on what you didn’t hear during the visit. Make a list of items you wish you had learned: Greek life, graduation outcomes, student clubs, alumni stories. Use this list in future communications or visits.

6. Get your student an air mattress for overnight stays. If your student is staying overnight in a residence hall there is a good chance that they will be sleeping on the floor. Prepare for this by purchasing a low cost air mattress. Your student will thank you.

7. Give your student space to experience the college independently. Since your student will eventually be alone on campus (I know, it seems hard to imagine!) it’s a good idea to let your student get a feel for what that independence will feel like.

8. Beware of icy roads and delayed flights. There may be travel delays. You should communicate with the Admissions Office if you are running late or have to cancel, so keep that info handy.

9. Let the college know if you have a bad visit. You should feel empowered to notify the college if your student has a bad visit. While a bad visit can be disappointing for your student, it’s important for you to communicate with the Admissions Office and explain why the visit didn’t meet expectations.

10. It’s important to remember, in a relatively short period of time, your student is going to college. Use this as an opportunity to connect with your son or daughter. Visits are geared towards learning about a college but your student is also growing and maturing as well. Take the time, have some fun and enjoy this moment!

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