The college visit

As spring break rapidly approaches, many families of sophomore and junior students are touring colleges. All too often parents tell me that they’re not sure of what they are supposed to be looking for when they arrive. Since most families choose to spend the time and expense one time prior to sending their student off to college, it is important to glean as much information in that initial visit so you all can make a thoughtful decision as to whether that college is the right fit for your child

Before you go, spend time familiarizing yourself with the view- book and literature that the college will send you when you go online to request materials. This will keep you from asking questions that are readily available via print or on their Web site and will free you up to learn abut the intangibles that might not be so obvious. It is a good idea to call the admission office to set up a time to attend their informational meeting and tour. While you may be able to join these groups on an impromptu basis, you will feel relieved knowing that you are assured a seat, as spring break will be very busy on campuses around the country. Ideally, you should set aside one day for school you visit otherwise your observations tend to be superficial and based almost exclusively on what the school wants to present to you. If your student wishes to attend a particular program at that school inquire as to whether there are tours of that specific school or facilities such as the science labs.

When you arrive on campus be certain to sign in, as you want to leave a paper trail that will be noted on your students application that they took the time to visit. Have your student dress neatly but business attire is not appropriate. When my own daughter visited schools I had her wear a suit and heels just in case she was to meet with an admission officer. Not only did my daughter feel thoroughly out of place as most of the other students were in jeans, her feet were covered with blisters after spending a day touring the campus from one end to the next.

You can inquire in advance if it is possible to meet and interview with an admission officer or a professor in your area of interest. You can call in advance to learn if your student is able to attend a class or two on campus, possibly spend the night in the dorm or meet with an athletic coach or fine arts faculty if your student is hoping to gain admission with these talents.

Joan Franklin is the owner of The College Source, an Independent College Consulting Practice. She is also a certified school counselor in the Issaquah School District. She lives and practices on Mercer Island and can be reached at 206 232-5626 or at

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