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Guest Blog: College Visits 101 - Top 10 Tips for Your Spring Break College Road Trip

College Visits 101” - Top 10 Tips for Your Spring Break College Road Trip

Strategies for Parents Taking Their High School
Juniors on the Road for Campus Visits

GUEST BLOG By Sylvan Learning

Parents of high school juniors everywhere are gearing up to hit the road over spring break to visit colleges of interest to their teenagers. While families can get a tremendous amount of valuable
college information online, even in today’s Internet age, there’s no substitute for an in-person visit to get a true feel for an institution, its campus and its students.

Organizing a college tour road trip can be a daunting task for parents. Which schools should be visited? How many
schools? How do you make the most out of a campus tour? Richard E.
senior vice president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning, “schools” parents and high
school students
in his “College Visits 101,” top ten tips for
organizing a spring break
college road
trip that parents and students alike
will give an A for information-gathering and fun.


1. Start by Casting a Wide
- If you
and your teenager haven’t already done so, start by
putting together a big list of potential schools of interest – up to 20
schools - for further investigation and research. Carefully consider a
range of selection criteria, such as, geographic location,
campus setting, size of student
, religious affiliation, academic
strengths and offerings, and athletic programs, among others. Include a range of “dream,”
“target” (strong odds of acceptance based on your teen’s test
scores, GPA, etc.) and “safety” schools.

2. Finalize Your Target Tour
- Once you have your
initial pool of possible school targets, narrow that list to a more
number of schools to visit – schools that meet the criteria for your
and your family. Fine tuning your list can largely be done by visiting
schools’ Web sites, reviewing college guides from the library or
bookstore and, of course, by working with your teen’s school guidance
. Other students, friends and family members can also offer
invaluable insights.

3. Get SAT/ACT Test Prep
- If
you take a school off of your teen’s final target list
because his or her SAT or ACT test scores aren’t in that school’s
typical accepted student
– or you’re afraid they won’t
be - consider obtaining SAT/ACT test prep support from your local Sylvan
( ).

With student application submissions hitting record highs – and acceptance rates at historic lows at many schools around the country - competition to get
into the
“top” colleges is more difficult than ever before.
prep experts will tailor a personalized plan that builds the skills,
habits and attitudes to your teenager’s needs in order to score higher
test day and apply to college with confidence. Sylvan’s highly
personalized and targeted approach focuses on the exact skills needed to
successfully answer test questions. For many students, skills can be
to raise test scores in as little as five to twelve weeks.

4. Visit While College is in
- Every
family’s final “visit” list of schools is different; some
travel to 12 or more campuses while others only a handful. Based on the
geography of your target tour list, you may in fact wind up making a few
trips – perhaps one over spring break and then one or two long weekend
treks. Regardless of how many campuses you visit, make sure to schedule
visits while college is in session and students are attending classes.
Don’t visit during midterms or finals and avoid weekend visits if at all
possible, since classes are seldom held then.
Be sure to
call ahead and check on tour times, dates offices are closed, and
visit/interview policies. If spring proves problematic because your
target schools have spring break the same week your teen does, fall of
year is also an ideal time to visit.

5. Remember the 2/2/2 Rule - Two schools a day.
Don’t try to visit more than two schools a day, especially if the
aren’t close together. Any more than that and you’ll never have
enough time to really get a fair sense of the school, which after all,
is the
entire point of taking the road trip.

Two question limit. Given that most teens find
their parents embarrassing under any circumstances, they are especially
sensitive to mom or dad asking numerous questions on the campus tour.
Try to
limit your questions to two vital topics. For example, focus on safety
financial aid.

Speak with at least two professors or students from your teen’s intended major. Now is your -and your teenager’s - time to determine if this
learning environment is right for your family. Ask a student, “What is
the quality of faculty advising? Which outstanding professors or courses
he/she recommend for that specific major?” Speak to a professor about
general education requirements, which classes are most popular and fill
up quickly,
and which classes should be completed in the first year.

6. Schedule Smart - New Roman"">Be
sure to
make long trips efficient by planning several visits along the route.
out driving distances
between schools so you and your teenager can determine
which schools to visit on the same day. When you have a tentative
itinerary, you and your child can begin calling colleges to schedule the
visits. Be sure to reserve in advance for official campus tours, and/or
interviews with the admissions office, coaches, or professors. Make
appointment calls at least two weeks in advance of your target visit

7. Ask Questions to Make the
Most of Your Visit
New Roman"">- Encourage your
to ask as many questions as possible – and ask different people the same
questions to see if you get different answers. In addition to the
tour guide, speak with students, professors, librarians, or other
representatives based on topics of interest to your student.

8. Go Beyond the Official
Campus Tour to Get the
“Inside Skinny”
Official campus tours are almost always 30-60 minute student-led affairs
give a good overview of the college, its facilities, academic offerings
student life. They’re a good place to start, but by doing a little
advanced homework, your family can round out your visit with other
experiences that can help you and your teen get the “inside skinny”
on the school. If any family members, friends, or recent graduates of
teen’s school are enrolled, have coffee or meet with him or her. If your
teen is an athlete, musician, artist, or has another special interest,
call in
advance to arrange a meeting with the coach or other relevant faculty members.

9. Eat on Campus - What teenager doesn’t
place a high priority on food? Most
schools allow visitors to eat on campus; so eat in the dining hall or
on-campus eating establishments to give your teen a firsthand
“taste” of the school’s food while also saving money.
Likewise, if you need overnight lodging, consider allowing your teenager
stay in a dorm. Even if you don’t know a student with whom your child
can stay, many schools will arrange for your teen to stay overnight with
current student - if you call in advance. Parents will save money by
paying for one hotel room (or booking a smaller room) and the
student will gain an invaluable chance to experience dorm life.

10. Create a Photo Diary - Believe it or not, once
your family arrives home from your
college tour road trip, all those campuses may start to blur together –
especially if you visit numerous schools. Use your digital camera to
take a
lot of photos -even videos - during your visits to create a record of
school. Your first photo of each school should show the college name on
a sign
or building to ensure you remember which school you visited. You and
your teen
can create an online folder for each school or print out the photos and
them in folders with the other informational material you’ll pick up on
your visits.

For additional assistance in helping your teenager prepare for college, attend a free, interactive seminar –
“Test Stress: A Parent’s Real Guide to College Test Prep”
– to obtain advice from leading college admissions experts that will
you develop action plans to ensure your student is college ready. Visit for seminar


About Sylvan Learning:

Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades
and skill levels. Sylvan Learning has more than 900 centers located
North America . In its 30 years, Sylvan’s proven
process and personalized methods have inspired more than 2 million
students to
discover the joy of learning. Sylvan's trained and Sylvan-certified
instructors provide individual instruction in reading, writing,
study skills and test prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan
transform kids into learners with the skills to do better in school and
confidence to do better in everything else. Visit to share your personal
experiences and comment on educational trends. For more information,
1-800-31-SUCCESS or

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