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Three Sure Ways to Ruin a Campus Visit

Posted on 03/14/2019, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 9th Graders, Parents of 10th Graders, Parents of 11th Graders (0 comments)

Many of you will be heading off for a grand tour of schools over spring break. Done right, this is an enjoyable experience for you and your teen, but there are a lot of ways to go wrong. Here are my top three.

1. Wing it.

A couple of years ago, while visiting my son, a graduate student at Stanford, it occurred to me that while I was out there I ought to attend the information session and campus tour. I ambled over to the admissions office, only to be turned away because I hadn't registered in advance.
I was disappointed, but within seconds my frustration was overshadowed by relief that I hadn't committed that faux pas after flying to California with my husband and child for the express purpose of touring the school.

Take a lesson from my mistake. Check with all the colleges you're planning to visit to find out whether you need to register in advance for the information session and tour. Also, find out where you're allowed to park and then plan to get there early, as visitor parking is frequently quite limited. Don't even think about parking in an illegal spot. The parking police at many colleges are vigilant and fines can be hefty.

Bottom line: Spontaneity has its charms, but not on the campus tour circuit.

2. Dominate the Q & A Sessions

A naive observer at a college information session could easily be forgiven for mistakenly concluding that the parents were the prospective applicants and the kids reluctant tagalongs. At session after session I've attended, it's the parents' hands that shoot up when the admissions representative opens the presentation to questions.

Consequently, if you merely ask a few questions while your child sits next to you, stone-faced and silent, you will not risk calling attention to yourself. But don't be the parent who opens a query by stating that she has three questions - and then follows up with rebuttals.

Likewise, don't be the guy who buttonholes the Dean of Admissions at the end to recite the saga of his son's B minus in AP Chemistry - the only grade he's ever gotten below A and one that was entirely due to the teacher's post-divorce meltdown.

You get the idea; remember that the whole college admissions business is supposed to be about your child. If you dominate the Q & A sessions, you not only embarass him; you make him appear dull and spineless in the eyes of the admissions officer - which is far worse!

3. Sign Junior Up for an Interview on Your First Visit

In my view, the purpose of the your first visit to a campus is to allow your child to imagine herself at the school and see if she likes it. You'll significantly decrease the chances that she will by signing her up for an interview.

Trust me; most teens hate them. The anticipation of the interview may very well taint your child's entire perception of the school. So save it for a second visit to the colleges your daughter has identified as strong contenders. She won't be any more enthusiastic about the interview, but she'll be more likely to rock it if she's had time to learn about the college and is motivated to make a good impression.

For more do's and don'ts, read Make Campus Visits. And to all of you planning to embark on your spring break trip to colleges, bon voyage!

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Posted on 03/14/2019, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)




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