For many high school sophomores and juniors, March starts the beginning of college tours. Many high schools have spring break and March is the busy time for college students, usually between their own breaks and the hustle and bustle of final exams. It’s a great time for high schoolers to tour college campuses as they will get a real flavor for college life.
The thing to remember with college tours is to approach them like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet. You want to go in hungry and leave thoroughly stuffed, and while we are talking about meals, make sure to eat in a dining hall while you’re there. Make sure to soak up everything around you. Be prepared to ask your tour guide lots of questions, and if you are not thoroughly impressed with your tour guide, make a stop to the campus center or library before you leave and don’t be afraid to look like a tourist. Ask questions of the college students that walk past you. Ask them what they like about the college or how long did it take to adjust from being away from home. Here is where you will get your honest answers.
The tour is the most important part of the college search process. You can do your research on majors, expenses, activities in which to participate and average GPA, SAT, and ACT scores, but at the end of the day, the tour will tell you the most about a college. The cost of college these days is more expensive than my first home mortgage. For our graduates today, their loan payments are as much as mortgages, and you wouldn’t buy a home without walking through it or getting a home inspection, so why buy a college education without doing a walk through?
On your college tours, keep these things in mind:
- Take a picture of the college entrance sign as the first campus picture you take. Then take as many as you can. I have had students visit 10 campuses in a week, and it can get confusing as to what you saw where. This trick will keep your memories organized.
- Never visit your number one college first. In fact, visit a college you are not so thrilled about first. Most students and parents don’t know what to look for on their first campus visit and won’t know what to look for or what to ask. Use this first visit as an experiment. By the second visit, you’ll be surprised at how many more questions will be asked.
- Take notes. After your visit (or while you are eating a meal in the dining hall) write down things you liked, things you didn’t, and questions you still have.
- Make sure to visit a dorm, a lecture hall, the campus center, the gym, and a bathroom. You wouldn’t believe how many students told me that they wouldn’t be able to go to College XYZ because they wouldn’t be able to use the bathrooms. It sounds silly, but restroom facilities are a priority.
- Find out what you can do if you and your roommate just don’t get along. Ten months is a long time if you can’t stand the person you live with. It can make or break your whole college experience. For most students, this will be the first time that they will ever have to share a bedroom, and that will be a big change.
- Remember to have students share their college tour experiences with their school counselor. This can be helpful as students move from the college search process to the application process.
- For parents, remember that this process is about the students. College tours are not the time to discuss cost and distance from home.
- Have fun. Enjoy spending time together as a family.
Following these simple tips can help students and their families get the most from their college tours. As their counselor, be sure to remind them that one trip to the buffet may not be enough. Sometimes we also need to get a second helping to feel full.
Check out more from Carol Miller, The Middle School Counselor at her blog, Facebook, Instagram, and TeachersPayTeachers. Be sure to join her Facebook groups and find the support of thousands of other counselors.