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To visit or not to visit - that is the question. Article on skipping college tours


Hoggirl
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Interesting article.

 

College tours were very important to us. Not visiting all schools, but some. We started by visiting a couple of very different schools that were nearby. From there, my son had some specific preferences that he considered. I made a list of similar sounding schools and we visited some. Where some schools looked the same on paper, they felt very different in person. Yes, all the food, and rec centers, and classrooms were similar, but the people (both tour guides and random students) felt very different from campus to campus. Also some campuses felt very different - the difference between a 4000-6000 student population is very different than a 30,000 student school. 

 

Edited to add - I think a parent should inject some reality into college search. Whether it be to say that the only way you can go to such and such school is if you get a big scholarship or to say this little piece that you didn't like really isn't important because of ____. I hear some kids talking about school choice and they consider the most trivial things way too important without considering education, people, housing, location, finances, extra opportunities (honors, etc). 

Edited by Julie of KY
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Yep. I do not consider college tours particularly helpful. What could be helpful are individual visits to specific departments to get questions  answered and see how faculty interact with their majors. But canned tours with a student tour guide? Totally overrated. You see the campus and facilities, which does not tell you anything about the actual experience of attending. Visiting an online forum where attending students and alumni answer prospective students' questions will be more valuable.

 

ETA: Even sitting in on a class will not mean anything. The college will make sure that prospective students visit a class with a good lecturer and will hide the crummy teachers. There is a wide spectrum of teacher quality at each institution, even very high caliber ones.

 

Maybe I can see college visits useful for kids who have no idea how college works, have never seen a campus, never attended a class. It lowers barriers. But for kids who have been very familiar with college since a young age and have taken classes on campus, there won't be much to get out of.

Edited by regentrude
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I think college tours are very important so students can see where they will be living for four (or more) years.  The tours themselves are very promotional, though, and not all that helpful as far as what students are really going to be experiencing.  What was interesting to us was that we went to the same university twice - four years apart for different kids - and the tours were so different!  We had a great college tour with my oldest son - the presentation made attending the college seem so exciting and wonderful, and the tour guide was fantastic.  The second one was awful - the presentation was boring and wasn't very relevant, and the tour was just kind of flat. Same university, but such different experiences! 

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I did some college tours in high school with my girl scout troop.  My parents never took me on any tours.  In fact, the college I applied to and attended I never toured.  I had been there one day with a basketball team in middle school so I had seen the inside of a gym.  Otherwise, never visited prior or toured the campus.  In fact, I don't think any of us toured colleges in my circle of friends.  I only did a few tours with girls in my scout troop.  I didn't apply to any of those schools I had visited(all were private schools).  I couldn't afford them, so I didn't apply.  I paid my own way for school.  I basically considered the reputation of the school and how far away I could get and still afford it.  

My kids have been looking online at campuses.  If it works out we will go visit a few places, but I just don't think it's necessary if there is a school with a program you want and can afford.  You are going to want to be there to do what you came to do regardless of anything else.  

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College tours were important for both of my boys, and we are starting the process this summer for my daughter.  Both of my boys crossed schools off of their lists after visiting that looked perfect on paper. 

 

Same here.  We found tours to be super valuable - perhaps because we had already sorted colleges by other means, so tours were to get a feel for the rest of "life" at college.  They show the things IRL one can't find (or grasp) on a website or forum.

 

There's no way I'd cut tours when one has several options to choose from.  My kids cut schools due to tours when they got to the school and realized the school/area/whatever just wasn't "them."  Why choose a school like that when there are others equally as good academically that are more their preference?

 

But then again, we wouldn't accept a job and move to an area without visiting first either.  What sounds terrific on paper sometimes isn't, as we thankfully found out by a visit in our early married days.  I can still shudder when I think "what if hubby had accepted that without our looking around first!"

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Yep. I do not consider college tours particularly helpful. What could be helpful are individual visits to specific departments to get questions  answered and see how faculty interact with their majors. But canned tours with a student tour guide? Totally overrated. You see the campus and facilities, which does not tell you anything about the actual experience of attending. Visiting an online forum where attending students and alumni answer prospective students' questions will be more valuable.

 

ETA: Even sitting in on a class will not mean anything. The college will make sure that prospective students visit a class with a good lecturer and will hide the crummy teachers. There is a wide spectrum of teacher quality at each institution, even very high caliber ones.

 

Maybe I can see college visits useful for kids who have no idea how college works, have never seen a campus, never attended a class. It lowers barriers. But for kids who have been very familiar with college since a young age and have taken classes on campus, there won't be much to get out of.

 

I think this is an important distinction to draw.  What different kids get out of visits may vary a lot.  

 

We did 3 college visits.  They were all quite early in high school for my older kids.  The intention was to do a couple, just to see what a visit was like and to hit a couple schools when we were in that area.  I remember during the first visit, my son saying, "Wow, I didn't realize that college would be so cool.  I thought it would just be a lot more work."

 

Until that first visit, I don't think he'd considered how large even a medium sized campus would be, how many different facilities it would have, that he wouldn't be taking the same classes every day, that it could essentially be a small town with recreation and dining as well as school.  He was a competitive swimmer at the time, and he saw that there would be gym and pool facilities (even a moderate gym is pretty amazing to a kid who is used to a small YMCA.  This was his first exposure to things that I take for granted, because I've gone to college. 

 

I think it is good for a student to get a mental picture of what college is like and the type of facilities they will see there.  This lets them judge a school for its individual qualities, not because they have white boards or a climbing wall or a pool or two cafeterias.  That mental picture might come from spending time on a campus as a DE student or through sports camps or on tours.  

 

I do agree with the author that we need to be wary of what messaging is getting to us on the tour and if that stacks up to realities.  It is one of the points made in Debt-Free-U that I think is useful.  But I also think that he may overestimate the number of people who have access to neutral alumni from different colleges.  I think this gets especially tough when you start to diverge geographically or in economic status (meaning a kid from VA may struggle to find University of Washington alumni to talk to or that a kid who lives in an area with fewer college grads may struggle to find alumni of a wider range than local schools and may not have anyone from selective schools to reach out to).  

 

One thing I think students and families don't do enough of is digging into departmental websites to see what the degree requirements are and what courses are actually offered.  What one school offers as Computer Science may be very different from what is available at another school.  History or political science departments may vary greatly.  A school may offer a foreign language but only have 6 students enrolled in third year and may offer 400 level only as independent studies.  The engineering major may presume all students are calculus ready.  They may require certain courses freshman year and have requirements for declaring certain majors.  You aren't going to see most of this on the admissions page.  You have to do more digging and reading to get into these areas of comparison.  So I think it can help to get past the stage of "wow, college" so you have the ability to look at really matters to the student.

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Yep. I do not consider college tours particularly helpful. What could be helpful are individual visits to specific departments to get questions  answered and see how faculty interact with their majors. But canned tours with a student tour guide? Totally overrated. You see the campus and facilities, which does not tell you anything about the actual experience of attending. Visiting an online forum where attending students and alumni answer prospective students' questions will be more valuable.

 

ETA: Even sitting in on a class will not mean anything. The college will make sure that prospective students visit a class with a good lecturer and will hide the crummy teachers. There is a wide spectrum of teacher quality at each institution, even very high caliber ones.

 

Maybe I can see college visits useful for kids who have no idea how college works, have never seen a campus, never attended a class. It lowers barriers. But for kids who have been very familiar with college since a young age and have taken classes on campus, there won't be much to get out of.

 

It was exactly this class room experience which made the final decision for my daughter between her final three schools.  School A (highly regarded state school) never offered the opportunity to visit a class room so reputation and anecdotal evidence were all she could base a decision on.  School B (small LAC) had students attend classes as part of a scholarship weekend event.  The classes were pre-designated and the instructors had altered the coursework to accommodate the visitors.  It came off as very contrived and awkward. The extent to which this school controlled the visitors experience over the weekend made it look as though they were hiding something about their institution rather than showing off all it had to offer.  School C (small LAC) was also visited on a scholarship weekend.  We arrived the day before the event to tour the campus, sit in on classes and have an overnight stay.  DD was handed a list of class options that might appeal to her stated possible majors, given a map, and guided to the location of the first class she chose (and we left her alone until dinner that night).  Over the course of the day she met a variety of professors from different departments, several took time out of their day to talk extensively with her. Students in the class she was visiting invited her to lunch with them and after discovering what she was studying in high school invited her to join them in their next class (not one on her list) where the professor was welcoming and encouraged her participation in their activities.  

 

I'm sure you've already guessed which school she is attending.  It is interesting to note that 2 of her classmates at School C were at the same School B & C events and felt the same way about their experience.

 

Schools differ greatly and you have to learn to look past the hype and sales pitch.  I would start with making a list of what you want to know or see.  You need to know what you want out of a tour program.  For some people the tour is ultimately meaningless and for others it can make or break their decision to apply/attend.  

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We did multiple visits to the schools that made it to our boys' short lists. Letting them get a really good feel for the campus was extremely important to us. We did the official tours (which were always worthwhile experiences in one way or another) and went back at least one more time. And sometimes multiple times.

 

That article really doesn't make any sense to me. The argument falls pathetically short IMO. Of course we're using our future imagination for many decisions we make throughout our lives. This is the fourth home I've owned, but before we bought it I had to imagine living here. I'd never lived in this house before, never lived in this neighborhood. I'd lived relatively close by, but not in this exact area. I've never lived in any house while being a senior citizen. I had to rely on my imagination for all those things. We do the same thing when we buy a different vehicle, consider a job move--lots of things. We can't escape that type of decision making.

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We toured a few colleges just because we were either there on my husband's business trips or we were on vacation nearby. We did not go for the campus tours though. Instead we printed a campus map, walked everywhere, visit the library including reading the books there, ate at the food courts and chat with some strangers who thought we were lost. We even found out where the cheapest or free parking were from helpful students or we would have paid quite a lot for metered parking.

 

The only selective college on my kids wish list is Stanford but that is because they do AMCs, AIME, Stanford Splash, Julia Robinson Math Festival there due to Stanford being a short drive away and our nearest math circle. They know it is a lottery chance to get in. We have toured almost all the UCs and some of the California State universities due to my husband's job trips. My husband was just asking this morning if it is worth relocating to LA for high school and college because he can apply for internal transfer. We are used to high COL areas. My kids decided they like large campuses with lots of buildings and many food courts, and I don't think they will change their minds. However that is an easy criteria to fulfil with many colleges fitting that criteria.

 

At one campus, we get many curious looks because that campus has very few Asians. However everyone was friendly, just curious.

 

But the recommended advice (talk to students about their experiences at the school) is easier to do on campus than via a phone call, right?

 

Is the advice really "don't visit" or is it "visit but get off the beaten path" ?

I interpret the article as "don't go for the canned campus tours which are just marketing spiels". We have heard many while "loitering" on campuses.
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Yep. I do not consider college tours particularly helpful. What could be helpful are individual visits to specific departments to get questions  answered and see how faculty interact with their majors. But canned tours with a student tour guide? Totally overrated. You see the campus and facilities, which does not tell you anything about the actual experience of attending. Visiting an online forum where attending students and alumni answer prospective students' questions will be more valuable.

 

ETA: Even sitting in on a class will not mean anything. The college will make sure that prospective students visit a class with a good lecturer and will hide the crummy teachers. There is a wide spectrum of teacher quality at each institution, even very high caliber ones.

 

Maybe I can see college visits useful for kids who have no idea how college works, have never seen a campus, never attended a class. It lowers barriers. But for kids who have been very familiar with college since a young age and have taken classes on campus, there won't be much to get out of.

 

:iagree: You said everything I came here to say. 

 

With my first, he was the classic Peter Pan who didn't want to grow up and couldn't imagine being out on his own.  Brilliant, but child-like and passive.  I didn't want a 40 year old genius living in my basement in perpetuity.  So, I scheduled a bunch of college visits.  We started with schools that had some good things about them, but that I knew were not good fits for the exact area of interest.  By the third visit, ds started to be able to imagine being able to leave and have an independent life.  But, I'd have to say that the department visits were essential. 

 

As an aside, my uber-independent kid will likely be my 40 year old genius living in my basement due to mental health issues.  I guess I should not have joked about it. 

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:iagree: You said everything I came here to say. 

 

With my first, he was the classic Peter Pan who didn't want to grow up and couldn't imagine being out on his own.  Brilliant, but child-like and passive.  I didn't want a 40 year old genius living in my basement in perpetuity.  So, I scheduled a bunch of college visits.  We started with schools that had some good things about them, but that I knew were not good fits for the exact area of interest.  By the third visit, ds started to be able to imagine being able to leave and have an independent life.  But, I'd have to say that the department visits were essential. 

 

As an aside, my uber-independent kid will likely be my 40 year old genius living in my basement due to mental health issues.  I guess I should not have joked about it. 

 

I liked b/c of your first paragraph.  Hugs about the second paragraph. 

 

We found the visits helpful for the same reason.  Being on the college tour spurred him to begin to take ownership in the process. Even though I'd been lecturing him about the need for scholarships for years, seeing the power points with the cost made it real to him.  After the visits, he also began to work harder (now that could have been age).

 

Also, although he said he wanted a small college, I wanted him to see small and medium and get a sense for how it "felt". Sure enough, he did love the small college in the woods and felt the medium sized state school was "too big". 

 

So, all in all, we have found it most helpful for developing a vision for college.

 

But really there are so many factors and, for me, the small college "in the woods" was too small for me by senior year.  I had grown up in a city and when I went abroad and went to college in a city, I realized that that was a better place for me.  But that I couldn't have known until I lived it and I got a great education anyway.

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Maybe I can see college visits useful for kids who have no idea how college works, have never seen a campus, never attended a class. It lowers barriers. But for kids who have been very familiar with college since a young age and have taken classes on campus, there won't be much to get out of.

 

Most students are going to fall somewhere in between these two extremes. 

 

I absolutely agree that departmental visits and such are very important as well. The vast majority of students change their major at least once, but how accommodating a school is about setting up these visits can be very telling on its own. We choose to do both regular campus tours and more targeted visits.

 

My kids did benefit from even the generic campus tours. You get to see the dorms, eat the food, figure out how walkable or not the campus is. Other people come up with questions that hadn't occurred to you, and you add those to your list. 

 

At one very expensive private school, they were beset with technical problems when trying to show the promo video, and no one was on hand to help. The content of the video was also not great. As this school has both filmmaking and lots of technical degrees, this did not seem like a good sign. Neither did the "oh, well" attitude of the host. We were much more impressed with the school that not only had a more interesting video, but made a point of saying that is was student created. 

 

You get a first impression of campus culture, which we have found to be very accurate at the schools we visited again. Some schools have a friendly, outgoing culture and readily talk to strangers. Others have a more go-about-your-business culture.  

 

At preview days, which fall in between a regular tour and a solo department visit, we looked at a lot of the same things plus a few more. We've gone to preview days where professors were scant, and others where the dean of every department was on hand. Sometimes the president is on hand to welcome the crowd, sometimes not. Regardless of who is there, are they welcoming? Prepared? Happy to answer questions? Do they give students with lots of questions their contact information? We wanted to see schools be welcoming, prepared, and genuinely interested in prospective students. The variance in this was tremendous, and it definitely did not always line up with how many resources the school had. 

 

If students can go on some visits early junior year without great hardship, I definitely recommend that. It doesn't even have to be schools on their short list, just go to the most local ones if need be. I'd actually say to start with local ones before traveling, because you will come up with questions you hadn't thought of and new things to look for. If you only have a few out of town visits planned, don't waste any of them on the learning curve. 

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We have visited a lot of campuses-it's one of our favorite things to do, so for DD walking through a campus and eating at the cafeteria, visiting departments and seeing what research is on the wall, and just talking to people is normal. We've visited schools that she would be unlikely to attend (out of state schools that are commuter only, small private schools with big price tags) schools that are a good fit, schools that are a reach for everyone. Cheer competition or stunt clinic at a college? Arrive a day early and visit campus. Doesn't matter if your kid is 6 at the time.

 

We've done tours at several campuses. Some were because DD was interested in doing early college there, others were because they were available for conference attendees (and therefore tended to be focused on the specific department and often on grad school, medical school, or vet school). One that had been on DD's list got removed after attending a conference tour because the whole attitude seemed to be that undergrads were an afterthought at best, a nuisance at worst.

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We've only done a few so far, but they've been very helpful to us. At the last college we visited, there were very limited options for my ds with food allergies. My husband spent about 40 minutes just working his way up the ladder in the cafeteria trying to get straight answers on what options they would have for him. It makes me wonder how cooperative they'd be with my son. They also have dorms that are not air conditioned, which would be another issue due to his allergies. They don't advertise this stuff on their website, lol.

 

We also got to visit the department for the degree my son is interested in and meet two of the main teachers he would have in this major. While we were there, they shared info with us about specific scholarships related to this program, future job prospects, that a master's degree would be desirable in the end, etc.

 

But, the thing that has been most helpful has been just getting a feel for the people and atmosphere at each campus.

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The campus tours we've done have been very beneficial, if for no other reason than that it gets our sons thinking about college and envisioning their future selves in a campus environment and out of mom & dad's house.

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The campus tours we've done have been very beneficial, if for no other reason than that it gets our sons thinking about college and envisioning their future selves in a campus environment and out of mom & dad's house.

 

Yes! It becomes less of this distant idea and more of a reality. And, like Sebastian noted, college can be much more cool in person. 

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Yes! It becomes less of this distant idea and more of a reality. And, like Sebastian noted, college can be much more cool in person. 

 

This was especially true for my first. He did DE at the local State U which is large. Touring a smaller state U and a very small LAC let him feel the difference. 

 

I think the thing about tours is you never know what you will turn up. At the college where dd is, the dorms have high ceilings, so high that you can stand on the top bunk and barely reach the ceiling. It made the space feel so much bigger! . The descriptions of the dorm gave dimensions, but not height. It didn't make or break any decisions, but the nearly new dorm with high ceilings has been a happy place for her and she did think of it when it came time to make a final decision.

 

OTOH, ds talked to department heads at two campuses in the same town with the same major but opposite focuses. One lectured him, the other one engaged him (he is ASD and this isn't always easy). Can you guess where he is? He has found the faculty to be consistently engaging, helpful, and really invested in the students. 

 

I don't think tours are critical, but once we were down to a short-list, the tours did become tipping points. When we toured, we always did more than just the student-led tour, but we did find value even in those. There were a campus where ether tour guide was constantly stopping to hug friends along the way and a campus where people seemed very standoff-ish. We met with department heads & admissions counselors, and ate in the cafeteria (especially important for my vegetarian). Seeing the dorm, the campus, the town, the vibe, made an impact for us. 

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I toured four of mine way back when. i found it very helpful and it pinpointed the best school for me. On paper, all were fairly compatible in terms of academics and reputation. However, by touring I got a feel for the students who went there and whether I'd fit in or not. It wasn't something I had really thought about before, and I was glad I went.

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Maybe I can see college visits useful for kids who have no idea how college works, have never seen a campus, never attended a class. It lowers barriers. But for kids who have been very familiar with college since a young age and have taken classes on campus, there won't be much to get out of.

 

To see a house before you buy or not--that is the question.  

"Maybe I can see visiting a house before you buy it would be useful for buyers who have no idea how houses work, have never seen a house, never entered a house.  It lowers barriers.  But for buyers who have been familiar with houses since a young age and have lived in houses, there won't be much to get out of viewing the home in person before signing the purchase agreement."

 

Sure, it is a silly counter-example, and certainly there are cases in which people have successfully purchased homes (and selected colleges) sight unseen.  But the idea that you would ever encourage anyone to make a major decision with less than the full amount of information that is reasonably available to her is absurd.  An in-person visit could tell you if the trek from your dorm to the only vegan dining hall is unbearable in winter, or if the lack of windows in the math building is going to drive you insane, not to mention the all-important sampling of the dining offerings.  And for many people, appearances matter.  Whether the campus is pretty is hardly a frivolous question to anyone who values beauty in her surroundings.  Read the current thread on "CC on colleges you expected to like and did not," and there are plenty of parents bemoaning the ugliness of various campuses.

 

I thought the article was interesting from a "science of decision-making" standpoint, but I think the real challenge (and take-away) is to encourage our students to to critically evaluate the information they gather from a visit and determine how that data should be factored into the decision.

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My friend's son visited 1 school and applied to 3.  They decided the school's ranking for his particular field was more important than if he liked the campus.  

 

They also decided that if he got into his first choice there would be no reason to tour more schools.  But if he didn't, then they would worry about touring and decisions.

 

I didn't think that was a bad way to go.

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We are personally at a stand still with colleges.

 

We don't know if we are moving or staying where we are.  That will make a difference for our kids and college.  But we have some colleges in mind for both places.

 

And, I will be honest.  We are encouraging local schools and living at home.  We just don't see the need to pay $10K or more per year for them to live somewhere else, when there are great local schools.  We will have two in college at the same time.  $80K for living expenses that could be $0 just doesn't make sense to us if it isn't needed.

 

 

Edited by DawnM
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And, I will be honest.  We are encouraging local schools and living at home.  We just don't see the need to pay $10K or more per year for them to live somewhere else, when there are great local schools.  We will have two in college at the same time.  $80K for living expenses that could be $0 just doesn't make sense to us if it isn't needed.

 

Realize that living at home does not mean $0. Commuters pay in gas and car expenses, or public transportation expenses. They don't stop eating when they live at home and my grocery bill went down nearly $100/week when both kids moved out. If they have much commuting time, it can take away from possible work time as well as decrease the opportunities to be involved on campus.

 

Living at home is cheaper, but it is no where near free.

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Realize that living at home does not mean $0. Commuters pay in gas and car expenses, or public transportation expenses. They don't stop eating when they live at home and my grocery bill went down nearly $100/week when both kids moved out. If they have much commuting time, it can take away from possible work time as well as decrease the opportunities to be involved on campus.

 

Living at home is cheaper, but it is no where near free.

 

Not only this, but if schools farther away offer more in aid (merit or need based grants) than local schools, the amount paid is still the same or quite similar.  It doesn't really matter to me if my check goes to room & board vs tuition.  It's the same amount.  This was true in our situation.

 

There were a couple of local schools my kids could have commuted to that probably would have ended up less expensive, but their caliber isn't nearly up to what we wanted and/or they didn't have the desired majors (pending lad).

 

It's still worth it to compare options at the end (after applications, acceptances, and financial packages) rather than at the beginning if finances are a consideration.

 

It's an added plus for us that our guys absolutely love living on campus and were ready to leave home.  We love seeing how they've matured and really taken over their own lives - in leadership, activities, etc - all on their own vs parent suggested/directed, and they don't have to worry about chores or interrupting family life here, etc.

 

There are plenty of advantages (for many) of living away from home.

 

Some kids prefer the security or isolation (or whatever word one wants to use) of home.  That's ok too.  Just know your student and adjust accordingly.  If it's just finances though, it's worth it to compare at the end.

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I did some college tours in high school with my girl scout troop.  My parents never took me on any tours.  In fact, the college I applied to and attended I never toured.  I had been there one day with a basketball team in middle school so I had seen the inside of a gym.  Otherwise, never visited prior or toured the campus.  In fact, I don't think any of us toured colleges in my circle of friends.  I only did a few tours with girls in my scout troop.  I didn't apply to any of those schools I had visited(all were private schools).  I couldn't afford them, so I didn't apply.  I paid my own way for school.  I basically considered the reputation of the school and how far away I could get and still afford it.  

 

My kids have been looking online at campuses.  If it works out we will go visit a few places, but I just don't think it's necessary if there is a school with a program you want and can afford.  You are going to want to be there to do what you came to do regardless of anything else.

Agreeing with much of what you said here.

 

When I was in high school, touring colleges was not a thing. I don't remember one single person who went on college tours the way they are done today. The only college "tour" I went on was after I was accepted and I took the bus to visit my brother at UNC. I spent the night with some of his female friends and informally walked around the campus with them and my brother. I didn't meet with any official people.

 

I'd be curious how the college tour became the thing that it is today. It seems to me it's just another thing that parents have to spend money on, plus it's time consuming. Furthermore, the process seems to start so young, even with sophomores. Perhaps parents with means enjoy it because it is a good excuse for a mini family vacation. I dunno. For me, it's something that I dread doing with my younger son. I've gotten a reprieve because my older son wants to start at the local community college, but it would be best if my younger son start at a 4 year school, so I guess we'll have to play the game. It overwhelms me terribly. I don't even know how to begin.

Edited by Serenade
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Agreeing with much of what you said here.

 

When I was in high school, touring colleges was not a thing. I don't remember one single person who went on college tours the way they are done today. The only college "tour" I went on was after I was accepted and I took the bus to visit my brother at UNC. I spent the night with some of his female friends and informally walked around the campus with them and my brother. I didn't meet with any official people.

 

I'd be curious how the college tour became the thing that it is today. It seems to me it's just another thing that parents have to spend money on, plus it's time consuming. Furthermore, the process seems to start so young, even with sophomores. Perhaps parents with means enjoy it because it is a good excuse for a mini family vacation. I dunno. For me, it's something that I dread doing with my younger son. I've gotten a reprieve because my older son wants to start at the local community college, but it would be best if my younger son start at a 4 year school, so I guess we'll have to play the game. It overwhelms me terribly. I don't even know how to begin.

 

I'm not sure how our ages compare, but I went to college in the 80s and my mom and I went on quite a few official college tours before and after I applied.  It helped me select and number my preferences in the same way my kids used tours.

 

My peers did similarly.  We talked about the differences in colleges post visits.

 

Perhaps it's regional?  I went to a really good public high school and many of my peers went to really good colleges, both private and public.  The year I went to a private high school in FL (my 10th grade), some kids talked about their siblings touring colleges.  Often they went along.

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Adding to my last post... we were just staying with my Aunt a couple of weeks ago and she got talking about her college days.  (She's in her late 70s.)  She also visited colleges prior to selecting one to attend.  She was only choosing among state schools, but she told us she really liked the look of the one she chose vs others she visited.  (And then she went on to talk about how her Alma mater has changed so much since then...)

 

College visits have been around for a while.  I don't know if my Aunt had any official tours or not, but both she and my mom visited colleges prior to selecting one.  I'm not sure about my dad.  I don't recall him talking about it.

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Perhaps it's regional?

Maybe. I graduated in 1981 so maybe I'm a tad bit older than you, but I lived in eastern NC. I think there were even differences between my eastern NC school and schools in the big city of Raleigh. LOL. I remember someone from Raleigh trying to explain to me about AP or Honors courses, because my school had neither at that time. I seriously can't remember any of my friends going on a college tour. I believe we applied to far fewer schools, but it was much easier then. I only applied to one, UNC-CH, because I was pretty sure I could get in, and I did. One could never make such an assumption today. LOL. I'd never get in today, even though I was a good student with many clubs & activities, as well as some academic commendations like having attended the Governor's School of NC, which was a big deal back then. Today nobody can assume anything. I was talking to some local moms recently, moms of good students with great coursework, athletics and activities, and neither of their sons could get into NC State for engineering. Both of those kids would have easily qualified back when I was in school. It's just so much harder today. Schools are looking for different kinds of things.

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I think it has more to do with educatiuonal level of parents and money issues.  I did go visit the college I attended before deciding to apply (though I was fairly sure I would apply but wanted to visit first). My mom was well educated though we were low income by then since we only had my father's pension (not big since he didn't work for that many years here in the US before dying), very small Social Security check (because back then federal workers didn't pay into social secuirty so he only paid in a tiny bit from my mother's book business where he worked a second part time job) and my mother's low salary.  I got cheap flights (there were cheap airlines like People's AIr and others back then) and went there. My dh whose parents hadn't attended college didn't go to any college tours.  OUr son didn't go because he didn't want to fly back to the US and do that.  Both of our daughter's did and chose colleges based largely on the tours (they had already selected colleges that were good with their majors).

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Maybe. I graduated in 1981 so maybe I'm a tad bit older than you, but I lived in eastern NC. I think there were even differences between my eastern NC school and schools in the big city of Raleigh. LOL. I remember someone from Raleigh trying to explain to me about AP or Honors courses, because my school had neither at that time. I seriously can't remember any of my friends going on a college tour. I believe we applied to far fewer schools, but it was much easier then. I only applied to one, UNC-CH, because I was pretty sure I could get in, and I did. One could never make such an assumption today. LOL. I'd never get in today, even though I was a good student with many clubs & activities, as well as some academic commendations like having attended the Governor's School of NC, which was a big deal back then. Today nobody can assume anything. I was talking to some local moms recently, moms of good students with great coursework, athletics and activities, and neither of their sons could get into NC State for engineering. Both of those kids would have easily qualified back when I was in school. It's just so much harder today. Schools are looking for different kinds of things.

 

We had AP classes, but they were limited to seniors at the time and the max one could take was 3.  All of my peers maxed them out - different choices, of course.  Mine were Bio, English, and History.  Others picked Calc, Chem, and/or Physics.  I'm not sure if there were other choices TBH.  It was a long time ago and I'm only recalling the list I chose from.

 

Hubby comes from Eastern NC (Wilson).  His school didn't have AP and he was one of very few who went OOS to college.  He tells me many wondered why he'd want to go OOS.  He chose Virginia Tech over NC State for engineering.  We've often talked about the different experiences we had in high school.  Just like College A isn't equal to College B.  High School A isn't equal to High School B either - not then and not now.  I was super well prepared for college and found freshman classes to be easy.  He loved some of the classes so much he ended up taking them twice.   :lol:  (That's how he explains it anyway... others might say he failed the first time. ;) )

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He chose Virginia Tech over NC State for engineering.  We've often talked about the different experiences we had in high school.  Just like College A isn't equal to College B.  High School A isn't equal to High School B either - not then and not now.  I was super well prepared for college and found freshman classes to be easy.  He loved some of the classes so much he ended up taking them twice.   :lol:  (That's how he explains it anyway... others might say he failed the first time. ;) )

Back in those days, NC State didn't have quite the good reputation it has today. It was just starting to emerge from its MOO-U reputation.

 

Virginia Tech is one of the schools I'd like my younger son to consider. It's really hard to get into, though. I'm trying to figure out 4 or 5 schools for him to consider, and yes, we'll go on the dreaded college tour. He's just starting high school next year, so we still have some time.

 

As far as taking engineering classes several times because you liked them so much :-), my DH says that was not uncommon then. He tells me about friends who had to take the weed-out courses several times. It was almost expected. In fact, many times he tells me the best engineers are often the ones who are willing to persevere and work hard, not necessarily the ones who were the golden kids from high school.

 

ETA: I grew up in Greenville, not too far east of Wilson.

Edited by Serenade
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Realize that living at home does not mean $0. Commuters pay in gas and car expenses, or public transportation expenses. They don't stop eating when they live at home and my grocery bill went down nearly $100/week when both kids moved out. If they have much commuting time, it can take away from possible work time as well as decrease the opportunities to be involved on campus.

 

Living at home is cheaper, but it is no where near free.

 

Yes, we are fully aware of ALL the expenses and ramifications.  

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Not only this, but if schools farther away offer more in aid (merit or need based grants) than local schools, the amount paid is still the same or quite similar.  It doesn't really matter to me if my check goes to room & board vs tuition.  It's the same amount.  This was true in our situation.

 

There were a couple of local schools my kids could have commuted to that probably would have ended up less expensive, but their caliber isn't nearly up to what we wanted and/or they didn't have the desired majors (pending lad).

 

It's still worth it to compare options at the end (after applications, acceptances, and financial packages) rather than at the beginning if finances are a consideration.

 

It's an added plus for us that our guys absolutely love living on campus and were ready to leave home.  We love seeing how they've matured and really taken over their own lives - in leadership, activities, etc - all on their own vs parent suggested/directed, and they don't have to worry about chores or interrupting family life here, etc.

 

There are plenty of advantages (for many) of living away from home.

 

Some kids prefer the security or isolation (or whatever word one wants to use) of home.  That's ok too.  Just know your student and adjust accordingly.  If it's just finances though, it's worth it to compare at the end.

 

We are doing our homework.  I have a FINITE amount of money I can pay for college, especially if there isn't a need to go to a specific school

 

My kids may or may not get scholarships.  Test scores are saying no.

Edited by DawnM
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I had a full scholarship to Texas A&M. They paid for me to visit one weekend. I am incredibly glad that I went. I might have been stuck there for four years and it was a horrible fit. I didn't have the chance to visit any schools besides that one and our local state flagship U. It's important to me that my peeps have a broader perspective.

Edited by Sneezyone
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Back in those days, NC State didn't have quite the good reputation it has today. It was just starting to emerge from its MOO-U reputation.

 

Virginia Tech is one of the schools I'd like my younger son to consider. It's really hard to get into, though. I'm trying to figure out 4 or 5 schools for him to consider, and yes, we'll go on the dreaded college tour. He's just starting high school next year, so we still have some time.

 

As far as taking engineering classes several times because you liked them so much :-), my DH says that was not uncommon then. He tells me about friends who had to take the weed-out courses several times. It was almost expected. In fact, many times he tells me the best engineers are often the ones who are willing to persevere and work hard, not necessarily the ones who were the golden kids from high school.

 

ETA: I grew up in Greenville, not too far east of Wilson.

 

We both loved our time at VT - in the Corps of Cadets at that (main reason he chose VT over NC State - he got in off the waitlist at VT).  Hubby would definitely be a data point supporting your DH's thoughts about engineers.  He never had a problem getting a first job (post Navy), and has excelled ever since.  He started his own engineering business back in 1999 and it's done well for us - very well.  He never needs to advertise as literally all of his jobs now come from word of mouth.  Back in the recession days he took on individual jobs from around the world since local wasn't keeping him busy enough.  He's accomplished projects on most continents and a fair number of states.  But now, local business is thriving, so he's satisfied with just that.  One doesn't need to have a terrific high school education or freshman year to do well.  One needs talent, opportunity, and drive.

 

We are doing our homework.  I have a FINITE amount of money I can pay for college, especially if there isn't a need to go to a specific school

 

My kids may or may not get scholarships.  Test scores are saying no.

 

I absolutely know you've done your homework - esp with a background in education.  (That's why my response wasn't directly to your post.)  I wrote what I did for others who may be totally new at this "game" so they can have as much info to consider as possible.  Finances can be a biggie.  Sorry I wasn't more clear.  

 

(NOT a sarcastic answer - a genuine one.)

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Things we learned from a college visit that weren't on the website or disclosed anywhere on the internet.

 

1. The head of the department for my ds's major was retiring, and three other faculty members leaving so his major was being eliminated and only a minor with adjunct faculty would be available.

 

2. One of the colleges was clearly going to be difficult to deal with in terms of accommodations for his leg during the winter when he is in a lot of pain.

 

3. But another school was simply happy and enthusiastic to help him, very welcoming.

 

4. Another made no attempt to keep handicap parking accessible, and none of the wheelchair ramps were shoveled. We fought the whole tour with shoving his wheelchair through snow and slush. It never bothered the tour guides admissions reps, or faculty we encountered and watching one faculty member walking long distance with a cane and profound limp through all of that made us think this would be an ongoing problem.

 

4. One school middle ds assumed he would not like, and was leery of except for their amazing reputation in his major. After his college visit and scholarship competition, he felt very differently and ended up attending there.

 

So I am a fan of them. We tend not to go on prospective student days though, and set them up by appointment on other days so the student can set in on classes impromptu, and have faculty interviews instead of doing everything in a group.

Edited by FaithManor
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We did many college tours with ds. Most were official, but a few were drive-by because we were in the area.

 

Ds participated in summer academic programs beginning in the summer following 7th grade. Through those, he lived on five different campuses for three weeks or more each summer. He wound up applying to and being accepted at two of those schools. I think these summer programs provided the best taste of what living away from home would be like. At only one of the five programs did he go in knowing another student who would be there. I truly feel like these experiences were a good preparation for college life for him. Sorry - a rabbit trail off the types of visits in the article but another way one can effectively "visit" a campus.

 

We found college tours to be very beneficial. While the standard info sessions were all similar, I thought it was telling where emphasis was placed in each one. Responses by presenters (including specificity of answers, attitude, enthusiasm) during the Q&A segments were also telling for us. For us, finding fit and assessing campus "vibe" were very important, but I do realize that is a luxury.

 

Never was vibe so clear as when we visited the Claremont Consortium. Five small schools all adjacent to each other but with very different vibes. We toured three. Ds only applied to one after that visit, and it was definitely because of the sense he got while being on the different campuses.

 

We did as much as was offered whenever we visited a campus - info sessions, tours, class visits, interviews. Also, because ds at one point had an interest in majoring in music, he would do a trial lesson with a faculty member as well. He did those at six schools.

 

The ability to tour schools largely depends on time and finances. If those are limited, I think visiting different *types* of schools (LAC, CC, Big State U, regional U) close by can give a good general sense. Visits can also be done after an admission is gained, but admitted student days are definitely designed as marketing to prospective frosh. And, if one has an interest in a school that places value on demonstrated interest, that should be considered as well.

 

I'm glad we did them.

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