Berkeley Parents Network >
School & Preschool > Visiting Colleges
Hi, thinking of heading down South for Spring Break to look at
colleges with my son who is math/science oriented. Just trying to
figure out the best way to go about this and how many schools we
could realistically expect to visit in 3 or 4 days. is there a
good central place to stay to be able to hit several such as UCLA,
USC, Caltech, maybe UCSD? Are tours the way to go? Any and all
Mom just getting started
We did best touring one college per day, and signing up for the official
tours, but we had one week to see 6 colleges, most of them miles apart.
It's hard to get the flavor of a campus without talking to students,
although some schools' admission offices sponsor online student blogs for
this purpose, and the students will answer emails. When you're on campus,
remember to notice subtle things like body-language and expression: Are
students walking alone only? Do they look oppressed, animated, thoughtful,
cheerful, defensive? Are conversations going on around you? Are any
students having fun together? What do the posters at the student center
and dorms say-- are there activities, problems, upcoming concerts? Do you
see any professors? Is there recycling and bike paths? Do the students
look like people your student would like to know? The student newspaper
(if any) is also a good source of flavor.
Try to have a good time, too!
Our daughter is a sophomore in high school, and beginning to think
ahead to college. She's very interested in attending a small
liberal arts college on the East Coast, but that is pretty abstract
and not connected to any college in particular. I'd like to take
her back East over spring break to begin the process of identifying
which school(s) might be a good fit. I know that there is a current
discussion here about organizing oneself for the college application
process, but we have specific questions about college visits: how to
sort out which of the many prospective colleges a student should
actually visit, how to narrow down the field, how many visits to fit
into a week's time on the East Coast, how to see the student body in
action, and so forth. Anything else we should be thinking of? We
are in the earliest stages of the process and want to make the best
use of our time back East in the spring.
Early planning stage
This is a great website:
Have you tried it yet? It really helps to sort colleges by types and
regions, also admission requirements, and financial info is all there.
Best of all its FREE. Before you buy anything start with that website.
The problem with Spring break visits is that the colleges may also be
on Spring break. It all depends. I don't know if there is an ideal
time to visit. We visited in early June at the end of a High School
year. Downside: classes were not in session at most schools; Upside:
students were on campus getting reading for Summer Sessions and we
were able to get a lot of inpromptu one on one tours, and get a real
feel for the schools.
We overestimated how many schools we could see, and underestimated how
much time it would take at each campus and to travel between schools
in regions we did not know well. 2 schools per day really is max. In
Boston I think we saw 4.
We also liked this website and bought some of the guides:
My student was very interested in student quality of life, and looking
for peers she with whom she felt connected.
Every campus tends to have a distinct style, especially since colleges
often have a type of student they are looking for. You often see very
diverse ethnic and racial student bodies, yet there is a definable
narrow range of personality types to each school. Hard to see that on
the standard scripted tours, but you get more of a feel by walking
around, talking to students, or sending your student to spend an
overnight visit. Hate to stereotype but small colleges are more like
villages than cities IMHO. If you find a comfortable fit, it goes a
Beware, you might want to attend college too
My son is junior in High school and I am sure this question must have
come many times, what is the best time for High school student to
visit colleges, should they visit college during junior year? My take
is that they should visit after they have been accepted by few
colleges then to make a decision between those colleges they should
visit only those colleges. I want him to apply to all the good
colleges based on college ranking. Please share your views and
experience on this.
Late Winter early spring. Were the visits helpful? NO!
My child found more info about the colleges he was intersted in on-
line. (And not on the college's web site either, use the sites the
Many colleges have class lectures on-line now which is a good way to
get a feel for what classes are like. (My child actually took a
full semester class from MIT while in High School to see what it was
like.) He purchased the text on Amazon, took the exams, graded them
himself and took the final all for a class that took place 2 years
ago. (This was done all for fun, no credit was received.)
Once my child was accepted we did visit the school that was the
first choice just to make sure he would like it and be happy there.
Use on-line resources. Look at instructors web site, studnet web
sites/forums, and YouTube videos.
I felt visiting colleges was essential for my children. They both had
the chance to see the layout of the schools, observe the population
(diversity), sit in on some classes, get a feel for the culture (a
central meeting place for students, near stores, dorm life,
necessitating a car, etc). Back East--the weather (we went over spring
break here--it was snowing there). It was really important to go while
classes were in session. They had the opportunity to talk with
students to see what they liked/disliked about the school and why they
chose it. That said, it's not cheap to go East. We planned it so we
saw several in the general area--it takes some work to pull it
together but I'm glad we did. It made her choices so much clearer.
been there, done that
With 2 kids in college and a nephew who is a senior, we found college
visits to be an absolute neccesity to assist the kids in deciding
what felt right for them. We are lucky in the Bay Area that there is
close proximity to many many schools and its easy to do. Your child
should first look at the different school and decide what they are
interested in and which school might have it. We went to a few
schools we knew she wasn't interested in but they were nearby and it
was good to see a variety.
We did alot of school visits over spring break junior year - the UC's
and CSU's we went to were all in session and they all have great
tours - you need to book far in advance for some schools and others
you can just show up - check the web sites - they all have
prospective student websites. We did a 6 day trip south and managed
to see UCLA, San Diego State, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and Long
Beach. My daughter went on to Davis on a bus offered by Davis that
took kids from the local high schools. She went with other families
to see a few other schools and we also took some other kids with us.
At many of the sites she knew some kids who were older and attending
and we met up with them to see dorms and talk to them about their
experiences. The kids also traveled on their own to a few schools
where they had friends they could stay with and attended the tours
and visited with friends and were able to stay in the dorms to also
see more schools than I had time to take them to.
My daughter did apply to several private and out of state schools,
where it would have been necessary to get some financial aid to
attend. We decided to wait to see if she got in and if they offered
aid and then we could schedule a trip to visit if it was a viable
The College Board website is a good place to start -
This is a free website with lots of info
Everything will cost time or time + money, so first thing set aside
time every week, if your teen is not interested maybe cook a fav lunch
or bake cookies, find something to engage her in the search since she
is going to college.
You can visit local campuses after school, on a teacher's work day or
on weekends. Even if she is not interested in that school, you can get
a feel for other campuses, - an older campus vs a modern one, a
commuter school vs one with dorms etc. Traveling to out of state
campuses or out of town ones is very worthwhile but again will either
entail a lot of driving or some cash or credit card miles to buy plane
tickets. Most colleges will require appts and will have tours at
specific times, and certain days.
Make an appt with her college counselor ASAP, even if they are busy -
hopefully her school still has one. If not the public libraries
probably have college catelogs, and the main books that list all the
schools. Contact schools online - they all have websites, send for
catalogs from only the most interesting ones - or you will have too
much to look at.
Private colleges are incredibly expensive these days. Full
scholarships are rare, though we are supposed to get better breaks
from the Feds soon. You might look at state schools like University of
Texas, or Canadian public colleges that have much lower tuitions.
She can also attend a Community College for two years and take the
track that helps her transfer to a UC. CSU however has many campuses
with great programs so I would not overlook, or underrate that option.
Coming out of college without a backbreaking load of debt is an
important consideration, very few professions help you pay off that
been thru college apps, looking at grad school now
We waited until our daughter received acceptances, then we narrowed
down our visits for Spring of her senior year. We made plans to
reserve time to do this and visited three schools up and down the west
coast, including Canada. There was one east coast school that we
would have made a trip for, but that was the one school to which she
was not admitted. We were able to make appointments at each school
and often on-the-spot were able to get tours of specific departments.
This worked out well for us, however, if your son is set on a non-west
coast university, then it may help to check some of them out ahead of
Mother of a Sr in college
My daughter is a sophomore in high school and next year we will have
to start deciding on colleges to which she will apply. Does anyone
know of any college trips that are pre-arranged? When I was growing
up, my parents paid for me to go on a trip that was organized and
led by a woman who did this for her living. We visited most state
and UC schools-stayed overnight for a few nights- it was quite fun
and very helpful. I am a single mom with another teenager and cannot
imagine planning a trip to various schools on my own-the logistics
of when to visit-who to meet-campus tours-where to stay-all
overwhelms me a bit. Any advice helps! thanks!
Yes, I can highly recommend a local resource: College Choices 4 U,
Judith Flannery, San Leandro, (510) 276-7021.
Judith is an independent college advisor. My daughter and many of her
friends went on a well-paced organized 7 day trip to I think 7 or so
colleges (public and private, big and small, coed and all women,
religious and not) in SO CAL with Judy in 2006 when my daughter was a
sophomore in HS, during Easter break. It was very well planned,
structured and open at the same time, and was reasonably priced. It
included fun outings( a day in Disneyland)with all the campus tours,
etc. My daughter had a great time and got all the information she
needed to take the next steps. Excellent approach, professional and
both parent and girl-friendly.
We're parents of a junior. During the Spring break and summer we'd like to
tour some college and university campuses in Southern California and the
Southwest or the Northwest? Any ideas of where to begin in terms of joining
an organized tour anytime? Help!
Some high schools sponsor trips for groups of students to certain sets of
colleges the school considers to be interesting. But that kind of 'tour'
(back east, say) may not hit the places that your student is really
interested in. Also, the tours I've heard of have been for the students
(and a few teachers or advisors) only, not for families. (I could be wrong.)
If you want to go as a family and to visit several different kinds of
places, I suggest that you narrow your focus ahead of time. So where to
begin your campus tour - at the bookstore! The problem with choosing a
college is not that there are too few, but that there are too many. I'd
suggest that before you go off to Southern California, the Southwest, or
the Northwest with your High School junior, you pick up a copy of the
latest annual 'Fiske Guide' to the most interesting colleges in the US. It
will tell you a LOT - my daughter and I read it almost cover to cover. My
son skipped over almost all of the liberal arts colleges and concentrated
on technical/research institutions. Also pick up a copy of 'The College
Admissions Mystique' by Bill Mayher. Talk as a family about what your own
student is interested in. We made up matrixes with colleges down the side
vs. desired qualities (according to your student) across the top. From 25
or 30 to start, we narrowed the list to 10 or 12. Even that was too many to
visit for us, partly because they were really spread out across the country.
Before making travel reservations, find the web sites of the colleges you
are most interested in. Take their virtual tours. They are fun and give you
a beginning impression of the campus. Also check the college ratings online
or in a magazine (Business Week?). Then make up your own itinerary of what
you what to see. Call to get reservations at the individual campuses, and
also for interviews on-site if they are available or necessary. Either
through friends or by calling the Admissions Office, it can be arranged for
your student to stay overnight at the dorm, to go on a tour, etc. If you
are interested and get on the mailing list, the campus may send you flyers
about open houses or special events for prospective students and their
parents. You may want to be with your student part of the time and then to
let them off on their own part of the time.
It is good to visit before applying if you can! After getting the
acceptance letters, if you still haven't seen the colleges, you can visit
then (April of Senior year). Nice to know your student is accepted, but
then he or she is under pressure to decide pretty quickly. And the
air-fare at short notice can be costly. My daughter turned in her response
in person at the campus of her choice on the deadline day. Whew! (She's in
grad school now.) Good luck and have fun!
My daughter is going to be visiting some colleges this
fall. Her father or I plan to go with her, which annoys
her greatly. She says that "No one's parents" accompany
their kids on these visits. Since visiting the financial
aid people is the main item on our parental agenda,
something our daughter can't do effectively herself, we
figure she will just have to get over it. However, I am
wondering if parents do or do not generally go with their
kids on these visits. Also, how is this handled when the
college invites the child without mentioning the parent?
When I went to a college with my daughter last week, every student was
accompanied by at least one parent. The tour was for everyone - parents and
students. The interview was for the student alone. While the student was
being interviewed, an admissions officer conducted an informational session
for the parents. I believe this is standard procedure.
Reply to Louise re: Visiting Colleges:
I went with my almost 17 year-old daughter the first 2 weeks of August to
visit a few colleges down in Southern California (this trip was combined
with a vacation). Although I have come to accept the fact that teens do
not want their parents around and want to handle their lives themselves, I
can tell you that my daughter never said one word against us going together
and, as a matter of fact, she was somewhat relieved and even glad that I
was there with her (there are a lot of questions to ask!). I can also tell
you that, from what I've seen this summer (we toured 5 colleges) most
high-school students had at least one parent--if not the whole
family!--touring the campus with them. There were just a few students
without a parent, but they were in a small group with some of their friends
or colleagues. Even though the colleges' invitation is in the student's
name, parents are always welcome and to a certain extent, expected.
I just sent my daughter off to her freshman year at Mt. Holyoke. I
think she made a marvelous choice. Her college counselor stressed
that kids should take their own look at colleges, so when we went for
visits, I toured on my own unless she really wanted me there. She
flew to Massachusetts by herself to visit Mt. Holyoke, Smith, etc.,
and discovered that Mt. Holyoke was just right. I could take care of
all the financial aid negotiations by phone and letter.
I teach at a university and I have seen many parents on
campus with kids who are prospective students. My feeling
(as a parent and a professor) is that it is a very good idea
for parents to get a sense of the environment their child will
enter -- the total environment, not just the curriculum and
the dorms and the financial situation. For instance, where I
used to teach, the only shopping and entertainment area within
walking distance was a long strip of tawdry bars, where on any
given night, a parent of a prospective student could have seen
the current students drinking themselves into oblivion. Safety,
lifestyle, community resources, cultural outlets, etc. become
much more obvious on a visit. You are quite right that you should
talk personally to the financial aid people if you are paying for
your child's education. Where I would urge parents to be more
reticent is in the area of planning course work or majors for
their children. A prospective student should make his/her own
academic choices. Perhaps it is just because my field is in an
under-subscribed discipline, but I think parents who try to guide
their kids into "useful" majors are doing both their children and
the general academic endeavor a disservice. Perhaps if you
promise your daughter to stay in the background on all questions
except those having to do with your pocketbook and her safety, she
might be less resistant. But she is wrong to think that parents
don't accompany their children... they do and I think they should.
She's lucky that you want to take the time to do it!
My husband and I have gone on numerous college visits with
his daughter over the last year. Not only were parents ALWAYS
present for the tours but frequently other family members were
there as well (younger kids, most looking horribly bored, but
present). The college may invite the student individually as
a matter of form because that's how they keep track of the
applicants, but parents definitely go (it's not like a wedding
invitation). The parents, however, are not present for the
interviews with admissions officers. And we never met with
any financial aid people; that seems to be all done via paperwork.
Of course other parents accompany their children on college
visits! Not only for the practical reason you mentioned, but
just because it's a big step for the parents as well, and you're
just as interested/excited/anxious about her choice of new
environments. I don't have a child that age myself, but I
do remember what's like to be that age - pushing parents away,
but secretly hoping they don't listen to everything you say.
And if you didn't go with her, she'd probably regret it - she'd
see other kids with their parents and feel a bit envious that
she can't share her excitement and fears with you. Accompanying
her shows that you still care, that although you'll miss her
like heck (and everyone wants to know they'll be missed), you're
still supportive of this next phase in her life. As for the
phrasing on an invitation from a college - omitting
parents/guardians/etc - I would just assume it's "potential
student plus guest(s)" and they don't need to be explicit.
Perhaps things have changed since I visited colleges about
14 years ago, but I couldn't have imagined going WITHOUT my
mother. As a parent I think you should have at least some
say in the decision, even if it is simply sharing your point
of view, since I imagine you will be making a significant
financial contribution. I would consider it very strange for
a high school student to visit a campus without a parent, since
the child is just that, although he/she may not believe it,
and if only for safety needs to be with a parent. All of my
friends visited colleges accompanied by parents, except if
they went for a second overnight visit which some colleges offer.
As for colleges addressing materials only to the student, this
seems normal as he/she is the prospective freshman and I think
it is implicit that parents be involved. Hope this helps.
It would be very unusual for a prosepctive college frshman/high school
senior to do her college visits alone - without a parent or other
close adult. I have dozens of friends who have been doing this the
past few eyars, and not one has sent their teen alone.- except on an
occasional campus tour. In some cases the parent stayed away during
the actual tour with other students - or waited in a waiting room of
coffee shop during an interview. Sometimes, the student does the
meetings, and the parent goes to toehr events on campus that are
especailly arranged for parents of visiting students. A quick call to
the admission office can let you know what is available. We found
that the choice of school is generally a joint decision of student and
parent, and if the parent is completely unexposed, then it is hare to
have an informed discussion. In our family, due to finances, my
borther (the dad) my mom (the grandmother) and me (the aunt) took
turns taking her to various places so that she had someone to help
with logistics, finances, and just to be supportive. Several other
family members have started college in the last few years and none of
them went to visits alone unless they had a friend already living on
campus and stayed with them to see "dorm life." Perhaps you and your
daughter could compromise and you would be present at some activities
- and make yourself scarce - like at the bookstore - for others. Good
I totally subscribe to parent-visiting -with -teen for all the reasons
already mentioned. I did have one element of this issue that hadn't
been raised. The colleges visited aren't often easily accessible.
Addtionally, usually, one is trying to visit several colleges in a few
days. This is done reasonably easily with the advantage of a car. If
you are going to a location at some distance from Berkeley, a rental
car is required. It is very difficult for someone under 25 to rent a
car on their own. Even if you are doing a california circuit with the
family car, I don't know many who turn over the car to a junior to
take around the state to visit UCs and other schools.
There are some college counselors who offer rather high priced trips
to New England to visit schools. In this case parents didn't go. Can't
say I subscribe to this but it is an option.
Although the majority probably visit schools in spring of junior year
or fall of senior year (we chose November so she could see what New
England really looked like when all turned gray), there were several
families I knew that went through the application process and when
acceptances were received, visited the schools that were in the final
decision process. This can sometimes be difficult to schedule in
mid-April but for some people it worked well.
At the end of our daughter's senior year, when she was deciding
between 2 schools, she flew to them on her own, took public transit,
stayed in the dorm, and attended classes with older friends. She went
to each school for 2 days. This was a key experience (and well worth
the money) in helping her sort out the final two schools. But we
would never have sent her on her own in the spring or fall to visit 6
locations in 5 days .
this page was last updated: Mar 18, 2012
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2013 Berkeley Parents Network