First off, if you’re a parent and reading this, we have one important piece of advice for you when you start touring colleges with your student…
Don’t be “that parent”…
Once the tour begins, do NOT be “that parent” who asks a million questions. Here’s the painful, counterintuitive truth: none of the answers to your questions (however smart they may SEEM to you) are ultimately all that meaningful. The only thing that should TRULY be a needle-mover after college visits is the KINSHIP your child feels with a particular school over the rest. The “soul-mate” thing. That feeling that can’t be traced to a stat, or to logic. It’s the feeling that’s more like “I have NO IDEA WHY, but… this is the place.” That’s the compass that your child (and you) should use to help guide the process.
Your job is to encourage your student to ask the right questions to lead them to this feeling. Let’s go over on how you can do this:
Questions to Ask On A College Tour
Here’s the deal: encouraging your kids to ask questions themselves will make the whole process a lot more exciting for them. We all know that teenagers are experts at pretending they don’t care about what we say. So, let’s flip the script and let them take the reins during those campus visits. By encouraging them to ask their own questions, we’re giving them the power to shape their own destiny (cue dramatic music).
Sure, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, but let’s face it, they’re the ones who will be living and studying at the college. So, it’s time to step back, loosen our grip, and let them discover what they want to know. It’s like giving them the keys to their own college future. If they need some help on figuring out what to ask to assess whether the school is a fit for them, we have some suggestions for campus tour questions here:
- What initially attracted you to this college/university?
- What resources are available for academic support, such as tutoring or study groups?
- How would you describe the relationship between students and professors on campus?
- Are there opportunities for undergraduate research or internships in my field of interest?
- How would you describe the overall campus culture or atmosphere? What types of schools thrive here?
- Are there any specific student support services, such as counseling or health services, that you would utilize?
- What is the academic workload like for students in my intended major?
- How diverse and inclusive is the campus community?
- What is the housing situation like for students, and what options are available?
- What is the campus safety like, and what measures are in place to ensure student security?
- What opportunities are there for personal and leadership development?
How can you, as the parent, help your student?
Once you’re on the tour, let your child engage, and ask all the questions. It may even be a decent idea to hang at the back of the crowd while your son/daughter is up in the front. It’s a small gesture, but can go a long way toward helping your child feel empowered (this feeling of empowerment can have powerful implications on how they ultimately engage with “college” itself, and yes, it can start to develop in this otherwise unremarkable gesture). That doesn’t mean you aren’t an active participant,…it just means you are helping them in a different (and better, trust us) way. Here are some ways you can help your student during these tours.
Embracing the “this is going to be the school…” mentality
As much as you can, at the start of each campus tour, your child should embrace the idea that THIS is gonna be the school. Another way to think about it, start out rooting FOR the program. As opposed to… the opposite. Which is to walk IN with a negative perception. Because the ONLY thing that is likely to happen at that point is “confirmation bias.” With a positive attitude, however, the mind has a neat way of “giving negative events a PASS” and your ability to feel a stronger magnetic pull toward one school above the rest will be “truer.”
Keep a record or log of reactions to the campus and tour
After the tour, make sure your child keeps some kind of record of reactions. Evernote, Google Doc, whatever the preferred medium, have them LOG it somehow. What we want is pure, unadulterated INSTINCTS. How did it all … feel? What was the vibe? Did it feel right? Way wrong? Meh? You may not even need to discuss this… yet. There may be a moment when you can offer your opinion of the school, but it’s generally in your best interest to let them GUIDE this. And for you to support them if they feel a strong magnetic pull somewhere.
Using campus tours to max out your student’s echelon
Long and short, your student’s decision on where to attend BEGINS with maxing out their echelon (choosing the best school that they can get into). And then, if there are still multiple choices, to then decide based on GUT INSTINCT. That elusive “feeling.”
A campus tour/visit can help toward getting this “vibe.” But it’s only a part of the picture, not the whole thing. You may get a lackluster tour guide. It may be raining on the day you visit. There are all sorts of things that can cast the school in an unfair light. This is where “rooting FOR the program” can be a helpful tool in allowing your heart and soul to look PAST those things, to get a truer sense of the overall vibe. At the end of all the visits and tours… your child’s gut will automatically lean toward ONE place. If they’re stuck, and they need help and solicit your opinion, then you can and should offer it.
So, parents, let’s resist the urge to dominate the college tour like it’s a trivia game we have to win. Instead, let’s encourage our teenagers to unleash their curiosity and enthusiasm. Trust me, when they’re in the driver’s seat, they’ll be more engaged and excited about finding their perfect fit. This is the (often difficult) first step for YOU, to learn to let go of the steering wheel, and help your child begin his/her ascension into adulthood…
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!