CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) What should parents do when visiting colleges with their children? It’s an issue that is rarely discussed, not because of anything unseemly or mysterious, but because there is an issue that needs to be discussed that will benefit the student applying to college. College admissions consultant Paul Hemphill joined us with important tips for parents and students.
Visiting colleges is the equivalent of trying before buying. Families want to see and experience
a college campus – or try the product before buying – and that’s a perfectly legitimate action to take before committing thousands of dollars to a business – and colleges are a business – that requires you to pay extraordinary fees. But the issue is what parents ought to be doing while on the college visit with their teenager. And the issue is this: allow your child breathing room and lots of space to experience his or her own gut feelings about the college and the campus.
If you parents are really serious about making your college visit work for your child, here’s my magic formula: I have actually figured out how many feet away you should be from your child while on a college visit – 5,280 feet! Yep…that’s one mile away. Now why do I imply his much space? You need to trust your child’s instincts and the only way to do that is to give them the space they need without you being in their face like you are at home. For your child to know
that you are giving them that space will be well received if not surprising.
What should the student say to mom and dad to make sure that space is respected?
The student should turn to the parents and say, “Get lost! Scram! Get out of my life!” Actually,
the student could say, “Okay mom and dad, you need me to discover on my own if this school is right for me. Meet me back here in 2 hours and I’ll tell you what I think of this place.” The parents should either leave campus or speak with students on campus about the school.
Who should the student speak to while on campus and what are the most important questions to ask?
I would not talk to any college officials until after you have spoken to several students. Why students first? Because they are the ones who are living through the culture of the campus. Students on campus will be very forthright abut what they think of the school, but there are only 2 questions a student needs to ask on a college visit, and they are these: “What do you like about this school?” You’ll get answers that validate why a student chose the campus, and that’s fine. But the killer question is this: “What don’t you like about this place?” Don’t accept any flip answers like, “the laundry machine only takes quarters! Or, I can never get enough mustard for my hot dogs in the cafeteria.” Be sure to press students that it’s not a perfect world, and that you would appreciate an honest answer.
Is the summer a good time to visit college?
NO! It’s a lousy time. The students are not on campus! Schedule your visits from September to November.