Not Breaking the Bank with College Visits

Not Breaking the Bank with College Visits

A friend of mine posted the other day that he had already spent $3,000 dollars on college visits and he did not know if any of them were a good fit for his child.  As parents we all want our children to visit the colleges of their choice. Unfortunately, this method is not the most efficient use of your hard-earned dollars. 

Let’s look at 5 main points about searching for colleges

Attend College Fairs

College Fairs are fantastic opportunities to collect a lot of admissions information about potential schools both regionally and nationally.  These fairs do not require a lot of travel time and are relatively inexpensive. Colleges also make appearances at local high schools where representatives from colleges answer questions and present their college to students. These are what we call data points.  Here your college-bound student will be able to interact with multiple schools and learn more about campus life at various (Big, medium, and small) institutions. Reminder, your child should bring a pen and paper to take notes and collect college brochures. Through this amazing experience, they also will have to present themselves to college admission representatives, which can provide a great life lesson to them about conducting themselves in a professional manner. With these types of fairs, students will be able to narrow down what type of college they do or do not like, along with identifying broad strokes of what sparks your child’s interest at each college and what steers them away.

Start Local

With rising college costs, debt after graduating should weigh heavily in a college decision. In-state tuition is the rate students pay to attend a public or state college in their state of residence. Since most colleges receive state funding, this helps to supplement costs and lower the rates that learners pay.  Out-of-state degree learners will pay a much higher rate as they will not be given the opportunity to receive state funding. Limiting college choices to only in-state colleges can be appealing; however, this might involve your child sacrificing their dream college. Colleges within your student’s state tend to be local and provide many opportunities to visit, with limited cost. Within the state of Colorado, there are many different types of Higher Education Institutions eager to show off their campuses and programs.

Sneakers on Campus grounds vs virtual options

Most teenagers are chronically engaged with an electronic device and are walking billboards of what is available in technology today. While parents are also from the generation that embraces technology, when it comes to college tours these parents’ resort back to the old-school 1.0 version of wanting in person college visits to eliminate college possibilities. While in person visits are great, they often require a great deal of time and effort. It is for this reason that if a student has a list of choices watching online tours may be the best in narrowing options down. Then you can follow up with a visit to their top two choices to make a final decision. This can really help put forth energy into the colleges that a student truly desires.

Visiting one or two college campuses to narrow down your ideal choice of college is great.  Your teenager is more than likely going to apply to both of these colleges so the visit is to ensure that your teenager will fit in. When looking at narrowing down a student’s choice to two colleges, the process doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact here are a few tips on how to get the process started. The very first step involves participation by your teens, commonly referred to as a buy-in. Once they are committed to participating, have them go to YouTube and search for the college tour that they are interested in viewing. Have your teenager watch the college tours, (every college and university has its tours online). Have them write down some feedback from the tour. Did they like the campus?  Did they like the dorms?  Did they like the atmosphere?  What are their pros and cons?  Now have your teen pull up a positive review and a negative review of the school (these are also on YouTube).  If your child resonates with the negative review and they did not like the college tour, then this is not the school for them and tennis shoes on the ground will not change this.

Road Trip with a Teenager

A road trip with a teenager is not for the faint of heart. Teenagers can be a handful, but they also have a unique viewpoint on the world and are becoming adults through this experience. It is for these reasons that their buy-in on college visits and their participation in this process is crucial, as this should ultimately be their decision and path.  As parents, we often forget this is where they will be spending their next four years, and that it is time for them to shine in their decisions.

A Campus Visit  

Having two very outgoing and secure children it was shocking to find them afraid and even scared to embrace their future. Stepping onto the college campus for them made it real.  As a parent, our job on college visits is to collect data points and help guide them to find the best fit for them.

Asking questions is a good way to gain insight into what they are thinking, do this just as you are walking the campus, and at the end do a recap with them to get a sense of how they are feeling.

  •             What did you like or not like?
  •             What did you think about the campus?  The Three Little Bear questions: Too big, too small, or just, right?
  •             Did you feel like you could fit in?
  •             Are there any deal-breakers or things you could not live with?

Now let me give you a caveat, my son hates questions and loves to give one-line replies.  To get anything out of him right away is almost impossible and when we do push it can turn into a fight.  Therefore, giving him the time to process the visit is the best strategy.  This means our questions will need to wait for a few days or we will lose him.  Our daughter on the other hand will tell us exactly what she thinks at that moment.  Waiting is not necessary.  Make sure you use the best method to reach your own child.

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