Many of my junior families are planning their spring vacations around some college visits. These visits can be so helpful to the student: it provides a chance for them to visualize college as it really is and also to see how MANY varieties there are out there. But, there are pitfalls to steer clear of on a college tour vacation. Here's a few and how to prevent them:
1- Planning too many: The key word here is "VACATION". More than likely the rest of the family is trailing along with various degrees (or NO degree) of engagement. Keep a balance - plan only 1 or 2 at most per day, with a few days scattered in between just for fun. After all, the student should see what is fun to do around the campus as much as see the college.
2- 'Drive by' visits: While it's hard to resist the temptation of 'just one more campus walk/drive through' as you are in an area, remember that often these types of visits don't allow you or the student to get the REAL flavor of the college. You can't hear about their academic programs that may be unique to them. You don't have time to take in the surrounding area and what it may offer. Choose quality over quantity - take the official tour, spend time on campus (hopefully when there are students milling around), and eat locally.
3- Siblings input not part of plans: While it may not seem like your children communicate well (especially on a family vacation!), siblings' and their opinions do matter to your junior student. So, have the siblings engage in the travels by asking them to find out a fun stop near the college that appeals to their interests. Find the funkiest donut shop, a unique comic book store, or a rock to climb in a park. Whatever engages them into the trip - teach them to find it and own that part of the trip!
4- Not taking notes: Before you leave for your tours, draw up a checklist on what is important to you AND your student to observe at each college. Then, before you step onto the next campus, stop and take time to record your observations as well as your student's opinions. Give them a voice - this is their decision, and they need coaching on how to learn to evaluate colleges.
5- Forgetting the main point of vacation: FUN: It's a vacation, remember? That is really what your student will remember the most from your time together. Relax, just setting foot on ANY campus and learning to evaluate is a great step in creating your student's college roadmap! :)