But it’s hard to get a true sense of a school in a visit that will last less than a day. Here are some tips on making the most of your time on campus:
• Call the admissions office as far ahead of your visit as possible. Your son or daughter may be able to take a campus tour, meet with admissions counselors and perhaps even talk to faculty members, but only if you plan ahead.
• Go off the beaten path. College tours are naturally designed to show you the best side of a campus. You and your teen should see the rest of the school. Have a soda in the student union. If your teen is comfortable approaching strangers, he can ask them a few questions about their experiences.
He may even get to see parts of the campus that aren’t on the official tour. “I saw a really great dorm on my tour,” said one college freshman. “Later, I found out that freshmen never get to live in that dorm.”
• If possible, go to a freshman class. This will give your teen the best idea of what’s ahead. Are all classes for freshmen held in huge lecture halls? (In some colleges, freshman classes may enroll more than a thousand students.)
Do professors teach undergraduates, or are most classes taught by graduate assistants? How easy is it to schedule classes in your teen’s proposed major? These academic concerns should be at the top of your list when your teen makes a college choice.
• See if your teen can spend a night in a dorm. Many colleges allow prospective students to spend a night on campus. Ask a friend who goes to the school, if your son or daughter knows anyone. Otherwise, the admissions office may be able to arrange an overnight.
• Encourage your teen to trust her instincts. That’s the advice of a student who went through the college application process last year. “Sometimes you can’t exactly put into words why you don’t think a college is right for you,” she says. “But you should pay attention to those feelings.”
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