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An insiders guide to senior year

Making the most out of your senior's college campus tours

And suddenly, just like that, it's time to tour colleges. Things just got real. Like most going-ons during senior year of high school, it's a whirlwind. To help, here's a collection of tips we hope you find useful when trying to organize and evaluate your Senior's various college visits.

Plan ahead

Start your campus visits early on so you don't end up rushed into making this important decision. If there's interest in multiple schools in the same general area, visit them in the same day or weekend if scheduling allows. A lot of schools offer campus tours, as well as information sessions. Take both if you can. Sometimes these require pre-registration, so be double-sure to register if necessary.

Also, don't forget to double-check the school calendar to make sure school's in session during your visit and it's not during some crazy event. You want your kid to get a feel for the everyday campus vibe while you're there.

Narrow down your options from the get-go

Visiting colleges can be time-consuming. Trim down that list of colleges ahead of time to allow for more focus on the strongest contenders. While there is no replacement for being there in person, doing some up-front research, and taking virtual tours online, can help eliminate some "maybe" schools.

Go off the beaten path

A lot can be learned from official campus tours, but there's so much more to see. The tour will highlight the biggest, best, newest, etc. Venture on your own to gauge the look and feel of other areas of campus at your own pace. Check out places your student is likely to live, study and work near, especially academic departments of majors your student is considering. For example, if your student is interested in theater, go out of your way to see the drama department, theatres, etc. Dining halls, classrooms, and libraries are great areas in which to sit and observe the social and study culture of any school.

Do the talking

Encourage your kid to speak with students on campus. Ask what their favorite, and least favorite things are about the school. Getting a feel for campus and the social climate is huge, but remember to score the hard data as well. If you can, pick the brain of a relevant professor. Ask the big questions. Find out if there are any intended changes to your student's intended major, and see if any graduation and employment info is available. Come with a list of your prepared questions, so that you remember them all.

Don't let your thoughts get away

Document your thoughts on each school as soon as possible, even when you are there on campus. Capturing immediate impressions by taking notes during the tour works wonders for future reflection, and prevents things from blurring together when visiting multiple schools.

A couple other things

The more schools you visit, the more you'll get into the swing of things. For this reason, visit the favorite candidates last. Don't rush judgement, but trust you and your kid's gut. Make the decision together - weigh in and discuss. As crazy as it all is, this is a fun, amazing time, so have a fun, amazing time.

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