Parents, you envision a college degree as part of your child’s future. So choosing a college where they’re comfortable, happy and can be successful is important. But you’re also curious if that school’s party reputation is deserved, and if your child really understands what it’ll mean to be six states away in a town with no major airport.

As you accompany your teenager on college campus tours, how do you make the most of each visit? And how do you get the information you need without stepping on your teen’s toes? Experts say successful college touring begins before you ever step foot on campus.”

FastWeb: Resources: College Touring Tips for Parents

Here are some tips (for parents and their students) for visiting colleges:

1. Call ahead and make an appointment. Many universities also allow you to book appointments online. College officials recommend taking a tour, even if you are already familiar with the campus.

2 . Allow extra time to find a parking spot and the tour location. Parking at most college campuses is a scramble, and you don’t want to miss the tour because were hunting for parking. Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen.

3. Set aside a whole day for your visit. While most tours take about 90 minutes, allow extra time so you can explore the campus on your own. Poke your head into a classroom. Spend time in the school or department where you plan to major. Don’t forget to check out the student center.

4. If you plan to live on campus, ask for a separate tour of the dorms. The regular college tour often shows only one dorm. If you’re interested in sports, ask to see the sports facilities and recreation center.

5. Don’t be shy about asking questions. The tour guides are often students and they’re used to answering questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the guide for his or her opinion, either. Students often want to know what it’s like to live on campus and whether they should bring a computer or a car, said ASU junior Ashley Scheffer, 20, who has led tours for the past two years.

One of her most unusual questions was from a student, who accompanied by a parent, wanted to know the sexually transmitted disease rate. Scheffer didn’t have an answer for that one.

6. Ask about student services. Your tour guide should point these out, but if he or she doesn’t, ask what special services are available. These can range from tutoring to help getting to and from class if you have a disability.

7. Talk to students on campus. Ask them what they like and what they don’t. This will give you a heads-up on any challenges you may face as a student, such as cramped parking or too few academic advisers.

8. Many colleges also offer virtual tours on their Web sites. These offer a good overview, but keep in mind they won’t give you the whole picture.

9. Try to visit while classes are taking place. This will give you a feel for the campus and how you would fit in. Josh Cunningham, 18, of Iowa, and his mother, Christy, visited ASU’s Tempe campus on a Friday in October. They had been to ASU before, but Christy wanted to visit while school was in session. Josh loved the mild weather, palm trees and, no less important to him, the “pretty girls.”

10. Don’t overload yourself with college visits. Save your efforts for schools that you are seriously considering. Write down what you liked and what you didn’t. This will help later when it’s time to make the big decision.

Source: Anne Ryman, “Ten Tips for Touring College Campuses”
The Arizona Republic (Dec. 3, 2006)

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