A couple weeks ago, we published an article, “Are Summer College Visits Worthwhile?” If you decide that they are, make sure you’re making the most of any college visits you make. Make sure to get acquainted with college campuses at this important moment when your child is poised to get to know one very well.
Many seniors have friends going off to college and their fall visits may be more independent of parental support. They may have opportunities for overnight visits, bunked in sleeping bags on dorm room floors. While other trips will likely include you, their parents, this summer before senior year is an interesting time when the campus visit and family vacation often become one.
I liked this guest post on the New York Times’ Choice blog by a college counselor with some interesting tips about making the most from a college visit. You can read the entire article here—and I recommend that you do. Meanwhile, I’d like to share at least three ideas you might not read in a college guidebook or in every other article about college tours.
Brennan Barnard, the post’s author, advocates arriving for the college interview prepared with a long list of questions, and not simply generic ones about whether you have a psychology major. A word he uses to describe your approach to questions on the college tour is “inquisitive.” This isn’t about asking the best questions to impress the tour guide or admissions officer; this is a reminder that as a potential attendee of this college, you should want to know a great deal about the school.
Ask about free food, he counsels, with the observation that everything from the quality of the food—including dietary options, if that matters to your vegetarian, kosher, localvore or gluten-free student—and the vibe in the dining commons really matter. A place where everyone has a head in a book is wonderful if that’s your child’s M.O. and not so wonderful if your child likes to spend mealtime engaged in conversation or heated debate.
Barnard advocates engagement with people beyond the official tour. He offers a few ideas, which lead to the same thing: getting a sense of how people engage, either by seeking employees like music directors or coaches to talk to, asking random questions of students you happen upon or simply getting lost. To stand mid-campus with an open map and a befuddled look on your face lets you see how people react: are they busy and private and willfully uninterested or do they stop, reach out, and try to help?
Lastly, Barnard makes two sound suggestions: take ten minutes after a visit to write down your reflections about the campus. You will see so many schools this reflection will ultimately be very helpful. Finally, write a thank you note to your interviewer or host. Email is acceptable, but whatever the form, keep your tone formal.
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