Parents, Make the Most of College Tours With Your Teen
Q&A with College Counselors
I recently (2018) ran across a rather lengthy Q&A with college counselors on the job of parents when present on their children’s college visits. The Q&A was written several years ago, but for the most part, the advice given would probably be similar to what you would get if you asked the same question today. Summing up 117 counselors’ responses, 85% said to stay in the background, don’t embarrass your child or yourself, don’t ask questions, and don’t say ‘We.” Accept that it is your student who will be attending and it is your student who needs to figure out if they like the institution, the community, and the campus.
Experience from Over 150 USA College Tours
As owners of Custom College Visits, Janice and I have probably been on 150 plus US college tours over the past 10 years. Some with our children when they were doing the college visit circuit, others as a college counselor checking out schools we think our clients would be interested in attending. Other than the campus visits that were specifically for college counselors, there were always teens and parents around for us to observe. Here’s what I can tell you: for every counselor who tells the parents to stay in the background, stay silent, and don’t embarrass their child, there will be a parent who is at the head of the tour asking embarrassing questions, and has no clue as to what their child needs to figure out as they spend time on each campus. In addition to embarrassing questions and behavior, there is also the parent who thinks it’s better to visit 18 schools in ten days rather than sit down with their child and figure out which are the most important schools on the list ensuring that their teen spends quality time on each of those campuses. So what’s a parent to do?
Suggested Guidelines For Parents
From parents who have provided us with feedback from the trips that we have planned for their family, our personal experiences and some common sense here are some suggested guidelines:
Detailed itineraries are key
Whether you are visiting one campus or plan to be on the road for a lengthy period of time traveling thousands of miles and staying in strange beds every night, make sure you and your teen have prepared a detailed itinerary for the trip. Knowing in advance where to be, when to be there, how to get there and with whom to meet takes many layers of stress off the table and helps you manage expectations with your teen.
Give your teen the benefit of the doubt
Give your teen the benefit of the doubt and if you need to take some deep breaths and count to 10, do that. There are so many stories of parents pulling up to the campus gate and the teen refusing to get out of the car or did not like the tour guide because they had yellow socks and sandals, or they were too tired to go on after visiting schools for a week. You know your child best, and although you might have spent days setting up travel, hotels, and events for the day, and hundreds of dollars getting there, you probably won’t succeed in getting your teen to change their mind, so take a break or move on to the next stop.
College Road Trips Can be Memorable Experiences
We believe that parents should take an active part in the campus visit. They should ask questions be involved in the planning, and be the extra set of eyes and ears for the student. But we also believe that common sense and decency should prevail. Don’t embarrass your son or daughter, or the tour guide. Hang back and let your teen take the lead. A good idea is to let your student check out the campus on their own. Set up a meeting time and location so that everyone keeps to the schedule. If you have questions about campus safety, medical services, etc. go find the answers to your questions, separately. You should never be afraid of asking questions as a parent, that is part of the job, no matter what anyone else thinks. Life can be a tortured road if your student ends up in the wrong place.