10 tips to prepare yourself and your teen to visit colleges
by Gina Roberts-Grey
A child's senior year of high school finds him teetering on the threshold of adulthood. As if the pressure of maintaining his grades, having the responsibility of driving safely, and making good social and personal decisions aren't enough for your maturing teen, adding the weight of choosing where to spend the next four years of his life, and what career path to pursue might begin to feel overwhelming.
Between preparing for and taking standardized aptitude tests, to pouring over admission applications, knowing how to prepare to visit some potential college choices is often daunting. Parents and perspective collegiate co-eds alike find that initiating the process of visiting colleges can be confusing and even a bit frightening. Armed with patience, an open mind, and an air of perseverance, visiting college campuses can be an enlightening and enjoyable experience for you and your child.
Knowing whether you should you should schedule an appointment, if weekend and after hours interviews and tours are available, or where you should park on campus when arriving for your visit are a few of the many tips that will be beneficial. Whether your child is considering a community college, private college or large state university, making sure your whole family does their homework will help earn your visit experience an A+.
1. Listen without prejudice - Although your child attending your alma mater or favorite university may have been your dream since he was in diapers, it may not be your child's. You may be swayed toward him attending a four year institution while your future collegiate may be considering beginning at a community college. Don your detective's hat and listen to the clues your child leaves when you discuss college visit to prevent the disappointment of taking great pains to plan a trip that your teen doesn't want to take.
2. Sit in on a class - Hearing the term 'lecture hall' and sitting among 500 strangers all feverously typing away on laptops trying to take accurate notes are two completely different scenarios. Having the chance to physically see the average class size, proximity of classrooms and lecture halls to dormitories and residence halls, and the atmosphere in the classes will help your child gauge his level of comfort in this educational environment. You'll develop a feel for the teaching philosophy at the campus and determine if your child would thrive in these conditions.
3. Look for the comforts of home - Your child may be a fussy eater or have a penchant for cross country skiing. He may want to blend into a sea of collegiate strangers or hope to receive personal and individualized attention. Take the time to research the 'little things' you know will help your teen transition from high school teen to college undergraduate easier.
4. Do your homework - Find out about all potential charges or fees that may be associated with a visit. Do you need to make an appointment with the admissions office? Ask if your child will have an evaluative or non-evaluative interview. Will he be able to meet with a professor of his area of interest? Will you need to make accommodations to spend the night? Is your child's potential area of interest offered as an academic program?
5. Take notes - Bring a notebook with questions you and your child have, or to take notes during an interview or tour. Having this to review will help aid in the selection process once you're back home.
6. A picture is worth a thousand memories - Taking photos of the buildings, campus, parking lots, student center, artwork, dorm rooms and bathrooms, surrounding amenities and stores, etc. will be a great way for you all to revisit a school in the comforts of your own home. Because a tremendous amount of information is usually presented during a tour of the campus, looking back at pictures may be the catalyst to a new list of questions to ask when you make a second visit.
7. Asked and answered - Suggest that you and your child research what the school has to offer and how your child may benefit from attending the school. Bring a copy of test scores, transcripts and a list of questions to help admission counselors guide you through the visit and application process. Make sure your teen is able to ask and answer questions about grades, activities, and personal and educational goals to let the admission department know he is serious about pursuing an education.
8. Immerse yourselves in the campus - Attending a sporting event, book reading or visiting diverse aspects of a campus. Immerse yourselves in the complete campus experience for a good idea of what your child can expect.
9. See the school in many lights - A student with allergies may not want a dorm surrounded by trees full of leaves or an avid fan of hot, sunny days may not be best suited for the snow bound winters of the north east or west coasts. Visit your child's top two or three choices during different times of the day, week and season when possible. Getting a feel for the campus security at various times of day, the climate and level of activity may impact your child's decision.
10. Keep an open mind - Although you or your teen may have your heart set on a particular school, keep an open mind to a variety of campus sizes, locations and opportunities. In the unfortunate event your child is not accepted at his first choice, having the reassurance that you've visited a few different campuses helps you all switch gears and refocus your attention.
"Transition from high school to college is a big step for everyone. Students with disabilities have even more things to consider than their nondisabled peers."
-- Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D., University of Washington, Director of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology)
Ten Steps Students with Disabilities can take to Prepare for College*
1. Plan steps you will take to prepare for college.
2. Know your learning style.
3. Become academically prepared for college.
4. Assess your skills, interests, and personality as you consider potential academic fields of study to pursue.
5. Consider different types of degrees and schools.
6. Consider what accommodations you might need, and learn what typical accommodations are provided on college campuses.
7. Explore colleges and universities.
8. Consider funding options.
9. Use technology to maximize your participation, productivity, and independence in learning.
10. Find role models and mentors.
*For related web sources and links and a complete online tutorial in preparing for college, visit www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/cprep.html
Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D., University of Washington, Director of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology)
1. A high school curriculum that challenges the student.
2. Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend.
3. Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT).
4. Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative.
5. Community service showing evidence of being a "contributor."
6. Work or out-of-school experiences (including summer activities) that illustrate responsibility, dedication, and development of areas of interest.
7. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student's unique personality, values, and goals.
8. Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors that give evidence of integrity, special skill, and positive character traits.
9. Supplementary recommendations by adults who have had significant direct contact with the student.
10. Anything special that makes the student stand out from the rest of the applicants!
*This list was compiled in joint effort by the Independent Educational Consultants Association and FamilyEducation.com. For complete list, visit school.familyeducation.com/college-prep/decision-making/36085.html
Are you a list-maker and a planner? To print your own Step-by-step, grade-by-grade (starting with the 7th grade, if you can believe it!), college prep timeline and checklist, go to www.getreadyforcollege.org, a site hosted by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
Other helpful timelines, calendars and checklists can be found at www.mhec.state.md.us/preparing/index.asp. For a grade-by-grade planning guide to prepare for college: www.marylandmentor.org/Planning (MarylandMentor is a student services website representing the statewide and independent colleges and universities of Maryland.)
College introduces young adults to plenty of new ideas and experiences. However, before you pack them up and ship them off, here are five important life skills they need to know.
1. How to do laundry. Make sure he knows the difference between colors and whites, the benefits of hot vs. cold water, and how to read the labels to avoid color bleeds and shrinking.
2. Balance a checkbook. College may be the first time your teen is in charge of managing his own finances. Teach him to keep receipts, record transactions, track his spending, and reconcile his account every month. Be especially diligent explaining debit and credit cards. This is where many teens find themselves in hot water.
3. Share. Dorm rooms are small, and most colleges have shared bathrooms. This can be a daunting prospect if your teen has never had to share belongings or accommodations.
4. Use a PDA/DayTimer/Calendar. Being organized is crucial in college. Help your student learn how to use the tools necessary to remember schedules, assignments, meetings, and social engagements.
5. Take notes. College classes consist primarily of lectures, and good note-taking is essential. Many tutoring services offer instruction on this.
Information provided by www.ecampustours.com.