Multitasking and families seem to go together. Parents are pulled in all directions and sometimes it’s tough to know which way to go. Throw a college search into the mix and things can get challenging quickly. College application deadlines for soon-to-be high school seniors are only months away. November is the time for many early-decision applicants.
Planning Your Visit
Kristina Dooley owns Estrela Consulting in Macedonia, a company that helps students and parents navigate the college search. She said summer can be a good time to look at schools and for many families that means visiting while on the way to or from vacation.
“For so many families their only option is to visit in the summer,” Dooley says. “The fall, for entering seniors, is a little hectic. Summer visits — even though (the student) may not encounter a campus 100 percent as they would seeing it during the academic year — I think are useful for families.”
Dooley recommends following up a summer visit with another in the winter or right before spring deadlines to reconfirm a student’s decision. By scheduling an overnight visit or checking out classrooms during the school year, a student can often get a more accurate assessment or “feel” for a campus during a typical day after he or she is accepted.
Parents can talk to their child about what schools interest them, look at a map and determine if any are within a few hours of a vacation destination. Heading to the beach? Dozens of southern schools are along the way. Driving west? Plot your itinerary to include schools of all sizes.
“During a summer visit you can actually still see things (that are important). You can walk through a town, check out the location, see a dorm room or other buildings. If the school doesn’t usually include academic or residential halls on a summer tour, ask to see them anyway,” Dooley advises.
Exploring the Campus
A key to a successful summer college visit is moderation. Don’t visit more than two schools in one day; it’s just too overwhelming, Dooley says. Also keep in mind that no one wants a vacation cut short, even to tour colleges. “If you’re going to be in the area it’s a smart thing (to look at schools), but the kid needs to be on board with it.”
She advises checking with college admissions offices for specific summer hours and schedule tours in advance. Use part of the day to explore the surrounding area so your child can get an accurate assessment of the community.
Andrea Tracy, program director for LEAF, the Lake/Geauga Educational Assistance Foundation, which provides college information to high school students and their parents, says between 50 and 60 percent of the students she counsels look to Northeast Ohio schools as a college choice. Summer can be a good time to visit, especially for first-time trips. However, she recommends not letting a student eliminate a school during a summer visit. She advises going back when school is in session and talk to students. “The energy is different with school in session,” she says. Students who are going to be juniors this fall can get a jump on college visits. “
If a student is interested in a small school such as John Carroll University, Tracy recommends visiting other schools in the area like Ursuline College or Notre Dame College. If visiting the University of Akron, make a trip to nearby Kent State University.
As for the tours themselves, Dooley and Tracy both said it’s all about the kids. Parents need to keep in mind that “they aren’t the ones going to the campus for four years. Students may be reluctant to speak up because their parents are there. It’s vital for prospective students to get all of their questions answered before they commit to a school because it’s much more expensive to transfer than to make the right decision in the first place,” Dooley said.
Other tips? Have your child take photos during a tour or tape part of it to help jog his or her memory when returning home. Keep a journal to record impressions. Take photos of bulletin boards with event and club notices. “Kids are much more visual now. Taking these photos or short videos can really help,” Dooley said.
With nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., the right school is out there for your child. Summer vacation and school tours can be a great mix. Road trip anyone?