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Parents: How to Tour a College with Your Student

Touring different schools is an essential part of the admissions decision. Parents and students often do visits and tours together, and a lot of attention is given to how students should behave on a tour – but how should parents act? The college admissions process contains hopes and dreams of the future, and perceptions between parents and students might vary.

What parents see, do, and ask on a tour is just as important as what their student does. Here are a few tips.

1. Be a careful observer

As a parent, you'll be closely watching not only the tour leader and seeing details of the campus your student might overlook, you'll also be carefully observing how your student reacts to the tour. Students might not realize how certain aspects appear to them until you notice their reaction. Maybe at their number two school you see your student often surprised and impressed. Later, ask about the aspects of the school that seemed to impress your student. By observing carefully and asking later, you will not be forcing your views onto your student – which is more productive overall.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Let your student lead the questioning, but ask questions if they come up and espeically if no one else on the tour thinks of them. Don't remain silent in fear of embarassing your kid. This is a college tour and you'll both be on professional terms. If you have questions that you know will grate on your student – even if meant well – perhaps save them for a talk with an admissions counselor later. For instance, while the mental health support center is important on campus, it would probably behoove you to ask later, even if your student is not on any special medication. But your questions are important – so ask them.

3. Dress appropriately

Just as students must dress professionally – no jeans, no excessive piercings, no wordy t-shirts or holey clothes – you must, too. You don't need to look like the Secretary of State, but make sure you are presentable (and wear comfortable shoes, just in case).

4. Listen to your student's impressions before giving your own

After the tour and college visit, you and your student will be full of ideas. You might feel strongly opposed or in support of the school, but wait first, and just listen. Your perspective is essential, but allowing students to share their impressions first will help them digest and formulate their ideas and opinions. They will be the ones attending the college for four years. Help them work out their own feelings before stating your own. Even if they seem to brush your opinion aside, be assured – they are listening and considering your impressions and opinions. Just listening will help your student immensely.

5. Walk around town with your student

Your child will be living at this school and in a new town for four years. Take a bit of time to get a feel for the place, visit the downtown area, see how well the place fits your student not just on campus, but off. This is particularly important for small schools, but even on giant campuses, knowing the larger context is important. Town-gown relationships can help students get jobs, gain real-life experience, and broaden their perspective. Ask at the admissions office for a suggested route before taking off.


This post is titled, "Parents: How to Tour a College with Your Student." It was written by Marta Casey, a writer on Top Test Prep's team.

To learn more about Top Test Prep's programs, call (800) 501 – Prep.

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