Once your child has been admitted to one, a few, or several colleges, it is important to have an in-depth last look. Most schools offer Admitted Student Visit Days. Often, an overnight stay in a dorm is included. It is in your best interest to urge your child to take advantage of these visits, including an overnight if possible. When your child was going through the college search process, it was kind of like a budding romance. He or she was being wooed by some schools and chasing after other schools saying “Pay attention to me! I’m the one you want!” With a few schools (hopefully), the courtship was mutual. The schools offered a commitment. Now, your son or daughter has a chance to accept or reject the commitment. The courtship is over and it is time to find out which one is the “real deal.” This is a big decision and one that should not be entered into lightly. Some things that can make the decision easier for the student are:
- Sitting in on some classes
- Talking to some professors
- Socializing with some students
- Getting a brief idea of what it’s like to be a part of the campus
An overnight visit is the best way to experience all of these. Most overnights will include at least part of a school day where your daughter or son can sit in on some classes, hopefully in academic areas of interest to her or him. Good overnights will also expose your child to a nighttime campus activity, maybe a play, a concert, an athletic event or some other structured activity. Your child will be paired up with a host who will escort him or her to meals, activities, and more. Your child will probably “camp out” on the floor of the host’s dorm room. Good hosts will also introduce a prospective student to lots of other current students.
One word of caution on overnights – unless your son or daughter already knows a current student to pair up with, the host is always a gamble. A good host can make the visit successful. A bad host can leave your child with a negative impression. My daughter recently experienced a visit with a host she was not very compatible with. Luckily she was able to look past that part of the visit and see that the campus was still a place where she could feel at home. It is good to talk about this with your child beforehand to make sure he or she has realistic expectations.
Many structured Admitted Student Visit Days will include opportunities for your child to speak with professors in areas he or she expresses interest. If not, you can probably request this.
Some kids will be very apprehensive about going on an overnight visit with someone they don’t know. For some, this is way out of their comfort zone. Try to encourage them to step out of that comfort zone and do it anyway. After all, they will soon be arriving on a college campus somewhere, probably getting paired up with a roommate they don’t know, and learning to make new friends. An overnight is just a little practice at this coupled with a great opportunity to make the right decision.
My suggestion is to try to do Admitted Student Visit Days, or individual overnight visits, at your child’s top 2 or 3 schools, assuming he or she has that many. Even if there is only one school he or she wants to attend, it’s still a good idea to visit and validate that this is the right college choice.
I’d love to hear from other parents who have been through this? Did an admitted student visit solidify your child’s decision? Were there any really good or really bad visits? Do you think this was a critical step towards making a good choice?