My daughter is 18 and a senior in high school. How the heck did that happen? I’m going to be a lone woman in a household of males, come next September. I’m trying to not think too much about my sweet, sweet girl leaving. 🙁 Anyway, to help her decide which school she wants to attend, we decided to do campus tours of colleges and universities she is interested in.
We learned the hard way that some campuses do a great job . . . and others not so much, but they are willing to accommodate you if you ask. Now we have to make a 12-hour drive to a campus we already visited to get additional information, because our heads weren’t completely in the game. This post is to help you plan your own campus tours, so you don’t have to learn by sad experience as we did! (Some of this information you can definitely get by phone, or the campus website. But there’s nothing like seeing the real thing in person!)
Benefits of a campus Tour
Do you have a child who is anxious? Or one who has a hard time making decisions? A child who struggles to plan ahead? Campus tours are so good for this! Instead of living in their heads and worrying about things, kids can see, smell, taste and touch them. It makes college living and leaving home more do-able. It helps them make the right choice for THEM and not just choose what looks best on paper. It makes it all real: tuition costs, class selections, academic expectations, career planning, etc. By taking your child on a college campus tour, you are being kind and preparing your child, so they can feel more confident about themselves and the future.
1. Take a General Campus Tour
This will help you get a feeling of the school. What kinds of posters are up? What activities are going on? Is it a pretty campus? Too small? Too big? Too conservative? Too liberal? Some schools will give you a walking tour all over campus in large groups, while others will give you a personalized golf cart tour.
2. Take a Department Tour
If your child knows what they want to major in, this is a must! Even if they don’t know, I think this is still important- just take a general interest they may have, or chose something practical. It also gives faculty a chance to meet you and create a good impression. The department can tell you:
- What occupations their graduates end up in
- Average salary
- What specialized scholarships are available
- If department admittance is competitive and how your student can get in
- What the course work will look like
- Famous specialists in their department
- They can give tours of special rooms and equipment (ex: recording studios, press rooms, photography studios)
- Helpful major and minor combinations
- Preferred timing of coursework, so you register for classes in the right order
- Other course requirements such as student teaching, ect.
3. Dorm and Cafeteria Tour
If your child will be staying on campus and will have a meal plan, they should know how much room they will have, what storage looks like, distance from classes and how good the food is. Some campuses will feed your entire family at the cafeteria for free! (My kids thought they were in buffet heaven! ) Other things to think about:
- Do males and females share dorm buildings?
- Do they share bathrooms?
- How are roommate disputes and conflicts mediated?
- Are students housed by department? (Some are, and I had never heard of this before. Seems like a smart idea.)
- How are roommates selected?
- How many meals does the meal plan include?
- Are there other places on-campus students can eat at?
- What happens if there is an emergency? For example: what if there is a snowstorm and campus shuts down. How will my child eat? Will they have heat and electricity?
4. Other Specialized departments
Wondering if your child can get accepteded to the school of their choice? Want to know more about scholarships and the realistic chances of getting one? Make an appointment with an admissions counselor!
Interested in ROTC? Honors College or something else? Often you can attend an orientation for special interests. Be sure to not discount anything before looking into it!
At first, I was reluctant to go to the orientation for the Honors College at a particular school, since it sounded demanding and I wasn’t sure if my daughter would want to do it. (She’s a high achiever, but she also stresses out about it.) But once we got there, we realized that the coursework at this school was different than we had anticipated and that the Honors College would suit her very well.
We found out that our daughter could qualify for additional scholarships by being in the Honors College, that the requirements were much looser than we had anticipated, and there were a TON of benefits. For her, it was a no-brainer to apply to the Honors College at this particular school. I’m so glad we decided to attend the orientation!
Who Should go on the tour?
We took our entire family, except one of my teens who had a conflict that we had forgotten about. Were my 9 and 10-year-olds bored? Yes. But with a few vending machine snacks, they made it through a 5-hour tour at one school. I think it’s important they understand that we value education. We also talk about trade schools and how important those jobs are and how there is no “one-right-path” that fits everyone. We believe in life long learning, no matter your formal education or career- this is one way we can reinforce that.
Taking younger kids with you on campus tours reinforces this message and helps them be aware of options. It also helps bring the family together in support of my daughter. For my sophomore, he grew increasingly aware of the power of good grades and scholarship opportunities. It’s making him think about his grades and his future plans- and that’s always a good thing!
Have you taken your kids on a campus tour?
Which ones? What did you think? Tell me in the comments!