As parents, we experience numerous phases, ranging from the moments following the return from the maternity ward to witnessing those initial steps, the commencement of school, and the challenges and delights of adolescence… When the end of high school approaches, a new stage emerges for your teenager. How to support them during this exciting period on the threshold of adulthood?
College campuses tours are one of the key steps in your child’s choice of direction. To choose the colleges or universities your child would like to attend, it is recommended to visit them, this is the famous College tour. How not to be overwhelmed when you go from one college visit to another?
In this article, I don’t present myself as an authority in bilingual education; instead, I approach it from the perspective of a parent with four children. I aim to convey what I’ve gained in knowledge, experienced, uncovered, and emotionally encountered…
What is the “college tour”?
The college tour is the set of visits to higher education institutions to help your teenager make a choice. Why “tour”? Because most of the time, the visits
are scheduled one after the other during a vacation week in the Junior year or between the Junior year and the Senior year, for example. So it’s all the campus visits you can do. During the visit, potential students and their family members spend time on the campus. It generally includes a guided walking tour of the facilities, often led by a student (walking backwards – a true skill)
Increasingly, universities are organizing online tours, which allows you to limit in-person visits to the universities that truly interest you.
Why is this important?
Before experiencing it myself with my children, I didn’t realize the importance of this step. I must admit, I even took it as a whim on the part of my teenagers, or even a false excuse to travel… It was a mistake! This step is truly essential because it is an opportunity to:
- Immerse oneself in campus life and appreciate the size, environment, other students, and the atmosphere…
- Ask all your questions, whether they concern courses, financial aid, the healthcare system, housing…
- Understand the distance from your hometown, the size of the campus, the isolation or, conversely, the very urban aspect of the university or college…
In short, it allows the teenager to feel the atmosphere and know if they can see themselves in that environment.
10 Tips for a Positive and Useful Experience:
- Let your child drive the process
- Parents are primarily there to provide moral support. Help them prepare for the visit, but remember that it is THEIR campus visit. Don’t smother them; let them ask their questions if they wish.
- Refrain from making comments… You are there to listen and support. You may be stressed, but realize that they are even more so.
- Plan college visits with your teenager, starting with the least preferred and ending with the one they like the most.
- Many things can change from the moment you make your list of potential colleges until the actual visit. One way to prioritize your list is to start with those that are not at the top of your list and work your way up.
- Let your child visit campuses near your home on their own.
- It’s time to learn to let them go and have their own experiences away from us. A good way to start is to let them visit a few universities near you on their own. This way, they can form their own opinion and have many things to share when they return home.
- Encourage your child to prepare questions for the visit.
- Before each campus visit, ask your child what they think is important to ask during the next visit. Here are some excellent questions:
- What types of scholarships do you offer?
- If a student qualifies for these scholarships, can they use them for all four years of study?
- Do you organize an orientation weekend before the start of the school year?
- What types of on-campus jobs are available?
- Do you offer career counseling services?
- What types of extracurricular activities or clubs can students join?
- Are there student support resources available?
- They can also chat with the student leading the tour during the walking portions. Students are generally happy to talk about their experiences, what they like, and what they dislike.
- Opt for comfortable attire.
- Many campus visits are led by students. These real university students are enthusiastic and well-informed about the university. They tend to move quickly around campus, partly because they have little time to show you many things! So wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
- Check the weather beforehand.
- College admissions offices limit the number of participants in visits. Therefore, expect the visit to take place regardless of the weather.
- Additionally, it allows you to get a sense of the real weather… Living in California and visiting a campus in Chicago in February helps you understand winter temperatures.
- Explore the surroundings and consider accessibility.
- The most important site, of course, is the university campus, but students also choose a city to live in for four years. Get away from the campus and explore the university’s surroundings. An excellent resource for this is the website: https://daytripperuniversity.com/
- Find out about the availability and frequency of public transportation or whether the university offers shuttle systems.
- Have lunch in a campus cafeteria.
- Treating yourself to a lunch experience in a cafeteria is an excellent way to feel the atmosphere on campus. Check the visit program to see if it is included or not. If lunch is not provided, you can still eat something on campus.
- Take notes.
- During the visit, especially if you have multiple visits over several days, take notes on what you like, don’t like, or have learned during each visit. You can review them later.
- Of course, you can suggest to your teenager to take notes as well.
- Finally, the essential question for your teenager: does this place “feel like home,” as Americans say? Can they see themselves living here for four years?
Some useful links on this topic of choosing a university:
- For an initial approach: https://www.niche.com/?ref=colleges
- More for parents to help with comparisons: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- To find student reviews as well: https://www.unigo.com/colleges
- To learn more about campus life and the surroundings: https://daytripperuniversity.com/
- An article from The New York Times to broaden the discussion: [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/28/magazine/college-ad