Baby's First College Visit

Welcome to college! This sign was in just about every building.
At the urging of the high school counseling staff (It's never too early to start looking at colleges! Don't miss a chance to visit potential schools!) My almost-16-year-old-and-no-longer-a-baby eldest child and I took a day out of Spring Break chillaxing to visit a small college close to our home.

My son, a sophomore, has stepped foot on a handful of university and community college campuses thanks to events like Science Olympiad, but he's still pretty clueless about where and what type of school he'd like to attend. I don't think I had any ideas at that age, either. So I figure we'll take advantage of our location and plan some preliminary visits. We can see urban schools and suburban ones, small and medium-size schools, highly selective and not.

First up was a small school not that far from Chicago, but, in the middle of a small, quiet suburb. I believe the college has fewer students than my son's high school, so it was an interesting contrast for him. Instead of 1400 or so students packing into one building, this one had several dorms, a freestanding library, etc. and was spread out over dozens of acres.

Our visit included an official campus tour, as well as a meeting with a professor and an admissions officer. Everyone was very nice and I think he did great during the meetings, which were fortunately laid-back.

#ProTip: before you head off on this kind of visit, help your child prepare an elevator speech to explain who they are, their talents and educational/career ambitions. I totally did not think to do this. He still did fine, but lacked the confidence of an experienced interviewee.

I was welcome to sit in on the meetings, so I did, but I suppose when he's older and interviewing more seriously he'll go on his own. Yes?

But like I said, it all went well and we both got a sense of what to expect on these types of college visits.

My college visits involved heading down to a few schools with friends and staying with people we knew (or friends of friends) from high school. I only recall one formal interview (which did not go well) and, hmm, no official tours. No parents were involved! Nowadays, at least what I gather from the high school and my friends, parents are expected to be highly involved with the college search. When you're looking at a 4-year degree costing $60 - $150 thousand dollars, I guess it makes sense.

Looking for more information on the college selection and college admissions process? Watch or listen to this archived conversation I had with my friend Jen Hajer and admissions consultant Susan Goodkin about getting into highly selective schools.

We had so much fun we're doing it again. During our next chat on April 10 we'll talk the SAT, twice-exceptional students, and whatever else we can fit into about 30 minutes. To follow along live, "circle" me on Google+ or find an archived version on my YouTube channel.

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