Consider sending teens to tour solo
The most important part of visiting schools is the chance for teens to picture themselves on campus and how they might fit into the culture of the campus—physically, academically, and financially—for the next four years. “College is all about independence, and therefore we believe one of the best ways to plan a college visit is to join a tour group, without parents,” says Judy Marrazzo, president of goCAMPUSing, a college touring company. “We see so many of our students flourish on our tours, asking their own questions and speaking to college admissions officers about study abroad, courses offered, clubs and leadership positions on campus. And students have the opportunity to see two to three colleges per day and explore the surrounding areas—it’s a much more meaningful experience.” As a bonus, parents don’t have to take time off from work.
Get a full picture of the price
Take the opportunity while you’re there to learn what it really costs to attend the school. “Be sure to ask questions about what students typically spend on books, lab fees, and common living expenses,” advises Joseph DePaulo, Co-Founder and CEO of College Ave Student Loans in Wilmington, Delaware. Are classes and entertainment all generally in walking distance, or are there extra transportation costs to consider? What are the housing and dining options? How often do students typically eat out? “The student tour guide more than likely has general information about the school as well as valuable personal experiences to share,” he adds. They may also have advice on work-study options at their campus and what types of jobs are available. It’s also be a good time to meet with a financial aid counselor and find out the types of financial aid they offer, how you apply for it, and the key deadlines. Find out if applying under the Early Decision option impacts financial aid. “Knowing this information in advance will help students and parents as they begin to work on the college application process,” DePaulo says. Check out the money-saving habits of people who didn’t need to take out college loans.
Record a memento
If a picture says 1,000 words, think of the volumes you’ll get from a video. Molly Boegel, director of admissions programs and services at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, suggests taking a few minutes at the end of your campus visit to shoot a short video interview with your teen on your smartphone. “Ask them about their impression of the campus, of the people, of their sense for how this school might be a fit for them,” Boegel says. “Recording impressions not only gives your student some good content to work with when writing college-specific essays, but also allows you to reflect back on their demeanor, their mood, and your impression of their level of comfort and general happiness while at that school.”