Weekly College Column

Top 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make on Campus Visits

For families embarking on the college admissions journey, campus visits are a crucial step in the decision-making process. These visits offer a firsthand glimpse into campus life, academics, and the overall atmosphere, helping students determine if a particular college is the right fit for them. However, there are several common mistakes that students and parents often make during these visits, potentially impacting their ability to make an informed decision.

Parents play a significant role in their children’s college campus visits, but sometimes their actions can lead to less-than-ideal outcomes. Here are some epic fails parents might want to avoid during these visits:

1. Not planning ahead: One of the biggest mistakes families make is not planning their campus visit well ahead of time. This includes not scheduling a tour or information session and assuming a “drive-by visit” will be adequate, missing out on meeting with faculty or admissions staff, not calculating the drive time between colleges if you’re trying to visit more than one college each day or not allowing enough time to explore the campus and surrounding area. Planning ensures that you make the most of your visit and gather all the information you need. Not being prepared for the visit, such as not knowing the schedule, not having questions prepared, or not having a plan for the day, can lead to a disorganized and less effective visit.

2. Taking them to visit colleges you’d like and ignoring their preferences: Students need to have a list of preferences and priorities when visiting a campus. Ignoring these preferences and being swayed by superficial aspects of the campus can lead to regrets later on. It’s also helpful if the student has done some initial research PRIOR to visiting a college campus. This could be as small as reading about the college/university in a college guidebook, taking a virtual tour or even just reading student reviews. The student should be able to articulate why a college is a good fit for them beyond their sports teams or the social life.

3. Not allowing them children to process the visit: Many parents want immediate feedback, sometimes even in the middle of the campus tour. For some students, that’s fine. However, many people, including both parents and students will do better taking some time to reflect on the academic and social fit at each school.  What did they like or dislike about the college? How did they feel while on campus? This reflection can help students make a more informed decision when it comes time to choose a college.  Some families choose to jot down their impressions and then share their notes over dinner.

4. Being too pushy and not staying in the background: Offer support and encouragement without being pushy or overbearing. Respect your child’s decisions and let them explore the campus at their own pace. While parents should be involved and supportive, taking over the visit by asking all the questions, making all the decisions, or monopolizing the conversation can be overwhelming for the student and diminish their experience. While it’s important to ask questions during the visit, avoid overloading your child with too many questions or putting them on the spot. Allow them to ask questions and engage in conversations at their own pace.

5. Making Comparisons: Refrain from comparing the current college visit to other colleges or to your own college experience. Each student is unique, and what worked for you may not be the best fit for your child. Expressing negative or critical comments about the campus, faculty, students, or facilities can create a negative atmosphere and impact the student’s perception of the college. Constantly criticizing or comparing the current college to other colleges, including the parent’s alma mater, can be discouraging for the student and detract from the purpose of the visit.

6. Not being positive and flexible: Keep a positive attitude during the visit and be flexible with the itinerary. Things may not always go according to plan, so it’s important to adapt and make the most of the experience. Disregarding or dismissing the student’s preferences, interests, and concerns can create tension and lead to misunderstandings. It’s essential to respect the student’s opinions and choices.

7. Not allowing independence: Not giving the student enough independence to explore the campus, interact with current students, or make their own observations can hinder their ability to assess the college properly.

8. Focusing more on the outcome than the experience: Remember that the college visit is about more than just choosing a college. It’s an opportunity for your child to explore their options, learn more about themselves, and make an informed decision about their future.

9. Being disrespectful: It’s important to be respectful to everyone you encounter during your visit, including tour guides, admissions staff, professors, and current students. Avoid making negative comments or behaving inappropriately.

10. Being distracted: Stay focused during your visit and avoid being distracted by your phone, friends, or other distractions. This shows that you are serious about the college search process and interested in learning more about the campus.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@bierercollegeconsulting.comwww.bierercollegeconsulting.com

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