With a daughter headed into her senior year of high school, our search for the right college is in full swing. I can’t believe it! I feel like I blinked and this little girl has grown into a young woman now thinking about the next stage of her life.
Since we have commitments to show choir, school plays, swimming, football, gymnastics – oh yeah – and classes, we knew that once the school year kicks in, our time to look at colleges will be limited. So we used a few days this summer to tour universities. And we didn’t just visit colleges, we embarked on what felt like an epic college tour, which covered four schools in four states over four days.
Knowing that we would need to cram alot into a short amount of time, we developed a plan to get the most out of our visits. I imagine that some parents out there may be in my shoes in the coming months, so I though I’d share how we handled our college tour.
- Pack lightly
We devoted one day to visiting each school. This meant that we would be in and out of each location pretty quickly. If you structure your visits like this, it’s wise to not pack too much. And what you do pack should be comfortable and reusable in multiple locations.
- Create an itinerary
We knew we would be covering four colleges in four states in four days so we needed to create a realistic schedule that we could stick to. Prepare an itinerary that includes the location of the college, its distance from where you’ll be staying, and how far it is from your next destination. Having all of these details in one place will help you stay organized while on the road and keep you on track for departing and arriving at your next destination on time. And, when you make your itinerary, be sure to build in time to decompress.
- Register your visits in the afternoon
I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a morning person. I like to ease into my day. And when I’m travelling, I seem to need even more time for the easing. If you have the option, schedule your information sessions and tours in the late morning or early afternoon. This will allow you plenty of time to get there, get settled and get ready to absorb the information.
- Know what you want to know 🙂
After looking at two schools, I joked to my daughter that we could be at Any College, USA. (Note: while these were the first ones out of state, we’ve already looked at several local schools). Once you’ve been in a few information sessions and seen a host of academic buildings, all of the schools start to look the same. We found it helpful to prepare a list of things that we wanted to know about each school as we compared them to the others. Since my daughter has already done a ton of research to narrow down her choices, this list was really helpful in comparing the fine details of each school.
- Build in time to sight see
Remember: your child will be living in this new environment for the next two to four years of their life. So they, and you, will want to take a look at the surrounding area. Make sure you build time into your schedule to see the town, not just the campus. If you schedule your formal sessions in the late morning or early afternoon, perhaps you can tie in lunch at a local restaurant or take the scenic route the location where your sessions will be held.
- Minimize cost by staying with family
I’m a Virginia transplant, originally from New Jersey – or as I like to say “I’m a come here, not a from here.” Much of my family is still “up north.” So when my daughter wanted to visit a college in NJ, of course, I called in a favor from family. My sister lives less than an hour from one of the schools we visited, so I took this opportunity to tie in a visit with her. Though saving on the cost of a hotel wasn’t my primary objective, it was an added bonus for two nights of the trip.
- Share driving responsibility
Considering that your child will ultimately be the one travelling between home and school, have them do some of the driving. This will help them see what it will be like driving back and forth. Since our trip covered over 400 miles one-way, having a co-pilot (and co-driver) provided much-needed relief for both of us.
So that’s how we handled the summer college road trip. We still have two more schools on the list, but thankfully, they’re alot closer to home!
Your turn: Have you gone through the college tour process recently? What tips do you have for a manageable, enjoyable, infomative trip?