Start visiting campuses early
Visiting prospective colleges is a critical part of the college application process—whether your teen can picture herself as part of a particular college community may be just as important as what she chooses to study—so don’t try to cram all the visits into senior year. Instead, pace your visits so your teen has time to reflect on what they experience. “I think the best time to start visiting college is in the fall of junior year, and then again in the spring, and the remaining visits can take place at the end of the summer before senior year,” says Brittany Maschal, director of Brittany Maschal Consulting in New York. Once senior year begins, Maschal recommends continuing to visit schools into September and early October.
Use your vacation budget to cover visits
College tours may not be as relaxing as a chez lounge on the beach, but it’s smart to offset the expense of visiting colleges with money earmarked for vacation, according to an article in the The New York Times, basically because it’s easier to justify the cost. “Depending on how far you range from home, college visits are expensive,” cites the article. Also try building college visits into leisure trips by checking out colleges that may be close to your vacation destination. For example, if you’re visiting Cape Cod, consider visits to colleges in Boston, such as Harvard, Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, and Northeastern. Or if you’re headed to New York City, swing by Columbia, NYU, Fordham, Hunter, and FIT, so name a few.
It may be long, but take the full tour
While it’s nice to stroll through a campus alone on a Saturday afternoon, you won’t get a complete picture of the college experience. “Take the full tour offered by Admissions, including visiting residence halls, classrooms, and labs,” says Kim Oppelt, education and outreach manager with Naviance, the student success platform used by over 9,000 schools and districts. “And if the college offers you lunch in a dining center—take it! Don’t try to cut this part of the visit short. Let students immerse themselves in the true campus experience.” (But bring road-trip snacks just in case.)