Getting ready for a 10th grader’s first college visit? Make sure your family doesn’t make these 7 college visit mistakes.
1. Pick a college at random, and just go.
Give no thought whatsoever to whether this college will actually prepare your child for a job he’ll excel at some day, and don’t consider at all whether your family can afford it. Just pick a random college and go.
The truth is… it’s wiser to carefully research college options ahead of time, and visit only the ones you and your child know are good fits as far as real world career preparation and affordability. Remember, your daughter may fall madly in love with the first college she visits. You want to be sure it’s a good option.
2. Visit only state universities, because you think they’re cheaper.
The truth is… many students take six years to earn a four-year degree at a state university. Read here how those two extra years in college can end up costing students $300,000 in extra tuition, interest, lost full-time income, and stunted retirement savings. Ask a parent who owns my book how to determine which private colleges might be far better bargain options.
3. Don’t tell the admissions office you’re coming.
Just wing it. What can the admissions office do to help you anyway? They’ll just give you an unwanted sales pitch, right?
The truth is… the admissions office will bend over backwards to make sure you get the most out of this college visit. They’ll welcome you with open arms, perhaps even providing you with free overnight accommodations in dorm rooms with current students, free college cafeteria meals, informative college visit campus tours, visits with potential sports coaches, access to classes in the student’s area of interest, opportunity to participate in a chapel service, and free tickets to fun evening events. The admissions office can do a lot for you on a college visit, so be sure to let them know in advance that you’re coming.
4. Visit colleges when the weather on campus is beautiful.
The truth is… it’s better to do a college visit when the weather in that part of the country is at its worst. If your daughter is going to have to endure 40-below-zero wind chills and walk through thigh-high snowdrifts to get to class most days, she might as well find out what that’s like now.
5. Do your college visit when the college’s classes are not in session and 90% of students are gone from campus.
That time of the year is more convenient for you, after all, and it’ll be nice to not have to deal with crowds.
The truth is… it’s best to plan a college visit for a weekday when your child is out of school, but the college’s classes are in session. This will allow your prospective college student to attend a live college class taught by a real college professor, and it’ll also allow the student to get a sense of what the campus feels like when it’s bustling with people and activity.
6. Visit the dorms, athletic fields, and academic buildings, but don’t bother visiting the college’s career center.
The truth is… if your son doesn’t become acquainted with the valuable services offered in the career center before he enrolls, he may never visit it until he’s a senior, trying to pull together a resume with nothing to put on it. This would be a great loss. Have your son walk into the career center on college visit day and say, “Can you show us the resources you use to help sophomores, juniors, and seniors find paid internships in their major fields? I’m a prospective student, and if I attend here I’ll want to do three internships before I graduate.”
7. Let Mom do all the talking.
The future college student is just a child, right? She can just spend the college visit day staring down at her phone.
The truth is… your daughter will make the best impression on admissions office staff if she introduces her parents, and then takes charge of asking carefully constructed, intelligent questions.
Remember, a good impression made on a college visit can lead to more merit aid that will help your child pay for college later, so this is critically important.
What are the questions to ask on a college visit? Rather than argue with your teen over what to ask and what not to ask, go straight to page 190 of my book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward. There I provide a downloadable list of 14 questions students can consider asking in the admissions office, 4 questions students should ask in the career center, 5 very important questions parents should ask in the college financial aid office, and 11 questions parents and students should ask on the student-led campus tour.
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On college visit day, your job as a parent is to think, “Can my kid get through this college debt-free, and out into a real job in fewer than four years?”
For clear, step-by-step help with this, get your copy of my book:
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1-3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it – especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
You can “Look Inside” the book on Amazon for free by going to:
(Tell your friends.)
You can see the “Top 9 Questions Parents Are Asking Me About LAUNCH,” here.
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What about you? What do you think are the biggest college visit mistakes, and why? Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.
Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time author, academic strategist, and speaker. Her writing and speaking help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report.