March Madness: Getting Your Teens Ready for College Visits

By Author Nancy Berk, Ph.D for

Are you prepared for college visits?Are you prepared for college visits?This month, millions of junior and senior high school students and their parents will be swapping Spring Break for college visits. But for families deep in the college-bound journey, there's no break in sight as students try to decide where to begin (juniors) or which university to choose (seniors). It doesn't help that teen procrastination and indecision is at its peak. So how can parents jump start and maximize college visits for their children? Check out these 5 tips to calm your college visit chaos.

1. Visit Local Universities
Regardless of whether your teen is considering local options, nearby universities can give you both a feel for teen preferences before gassing up the SUV. Does she refer to the small college as "claustrophic" or "cozy"? Is there the look of fear in his eyes or a glimmer of excitement as he stumbles around the big state school? This inexpensive preview could save you time, money, and frustration on your bigger campus tours.

2. Map It Out
After reviewing finances, preferences, and other needs, take out a map and define an acceptable radius. How close to home would your teen like to be? Is a school on another coast a possibility or would the cost of transportation make it impossible for your family to afford? Are there medical conditions that require your child to be near a large hospital? (a college visit website founded by mom Z. Kelly Queijo) gives you tips for college visits and the tools to book travel and calculate fuel costs.

Related: Trying College On for Size-- How to Find the Perfect Fit

3. Take a Virtual Tour
Yes, you can tour in your bathrobe! Visit college websites and take their virtual tours. Then review the student-driven college tour sites like,, and to obtain other perspectives of the same school.

4. Lower Your Expectations
Sure this is a big milestone and you want it to be a parent-child bonding experience. It might be. It also might be a tension-packed adventure filled with teen attitudes and eye rolls. Lower your expectations just a little, expect the "I don't like the look" comments about a perfectly lovely school, and plan for rain even though sunshine is on the menu. This way you'll be prepared for the negative and thrilled about the positive.

5. Arrive Early; Stay Late
Campus tours are a must when you're trying to determine if a college is a good fit, but investigating beyond the tour adds dimension and details to the picture. Head to the student union and have a snack. Find an opportunity to chat with students (if your teen isn't mortified by that suggestion!), and dig a little deeper. It can be eye opening.

Happy Trails!!

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