It is common and even expected that parents be part of visits to their children’s prospective colleges. After all, someone needs to book the trip, be a chaperone for overnight visits and more.
But how involved should parents be in activities once everyone arrives on campus? Here is a short list of what parents should and should not do during college visits.
If your child will be going away to college, he or she will soon have to do many things independently. Everyday tasks like laundry, meal prep and cleaning up, which you and your family may still assist with, will soon be the sole responsibility of the student. Factor in the more demanding academic rigors of college, and you realize your child will soon have a lot more on his or her plate than before.
If you have always been extremely involved in your child’s life, it is time to let go of the reins so that your child is more psychologically prepared when the first day of college arrives. Start by letting your child make decisions about college visits, such as when to travel and which campus tour to sign up for. This way, your child will have a better feeling about the visit.
Don’t Project Your Wishes
College visits can be as exciting for parents as they are for students. You may be eager for your child to consider certain features of the campus or advise him or her based on what would be important to you as a college student.
However, this can be frustrating to high schoolers whose personalities and interests differ from yours. For instance, you may urge your child to get a sense of campus culture by attending a football game, yet your child may be more interested in seeing the libraries and study spaces.
It is best to avoid living vicariously through your child. Instead, put yourself in your child’s shoes and let him or her decide what is worth doing during the visit.
Keep Detailed Notes
Campus visits are characterized by stimulation and novelty; everyone sees and experiences a great deal in a short time. With all the excitement, you may not think to take notes, or you may trust yourself to remember the visit well. However, this would be a mistake, as you and your child are bound to forget the finer details, especially if you tour various colleges in a row.
As such, it is highly recommended that you and your student take handwritten or electronic notes. You could even volunteer to be the “scribe,” so the endeavor feels like less of a burden for your child.
For each visit, you could maintain a chart with categories for your child’s observations, such as “What I Liked,” “What I Didn’t Like” and “What I’m Unsure About.” Alternatively, you could agree to rank different aspects of the college dining options, student body diversity, closeness of lecture halls, etc. on a numeric or star scale.
It is equally important to reflect on these areas again once the visit is over and the dust has settled, giving everyone more clarity. Your child may realize that a category that initially seemed important while on campus is no longer a top priority.
Ask Questions That Prompt Reflection
If you think it is important that your child consider certain aspects of the campus, but you want to avoid sounding bossy, ask questions that prompt reflection.
For instance, you might say, “Should we go look at the fitness center in case you start working out?” or “Would it be a good idea to visit the science labs, since you’ll probably be spending a lot of time there?” Such questions can guide your child indirectly without giving the impression that you are exerting your will.
Be Alert Without Smothering
During a campus visit, your child might want to spend some time on his or her own, and it is important that you let that happen within reason. Alone time can give your child a chance to make friends on campus and get more acquainted with the college culture.
To this end, be attentive without smothering your child. For instance, you can agree to meet up after a certain hour or schedule check-in calls to make sure everything is okay. Again, the point is to give your child a healthy taste of the independence he or she is on the brink of having.
More from U.S. News