The Best Way to Visit Colleges

I’m halfway through a scorching college tour with my son Ben. I love visiting colleges, but the relentless weather in Oregon — the temperature reached 105 in Portland today — is insane. I’m thrilled — and I think everybody else is too — when each tour guide herds us all back to the air-conditioned admissions office.

This is my second-go-round with college tours. I visited 20(!) schools over a one-year period with my daughter Caitlin and now it’s my son’s turn.  All that schlepping around with Caitlin paid off. She has thrived at Juniata College in Pennsylvania and she’s about to start her junior year overseas at the University of Barcelona. If Ben finds a college that’s as a good fit, my husband and I will be quite happy and relieved.

We’ve approached the college tour tradition differently this time. When Caitlin visited schools she never arranged to meet with professors in her majors (Spanish and International Business.) Caitlin, who is a wickedly fast forward, did, however, manage to visit with just about every women’s soccer coach. Luckily, Caitlin has been very happy with nearly all her professors, but should students really take that chance? Heck no.

What my son is interested in doing is getting an idea of whether he could get along with the professors that he would be spending a great deal of time with. He is interested in physics so on our trip he lined up interviews with physics professors at the four liberal arts schools that he is visiting — University of Puget Sound, Willamette University, Linfield College and Lewis & Clark College.

I didn’t know what to expect when visiting professors in a subject that I successfully dodged in both high school and college. The prospect seemed intimidating, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. In my next post, I’ll share what’s happened so far.

 Learn how to evaluate schools right down to academic majors by reading my book, The College Solution. Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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  1. It is a good idea to line up a meeting with a professor in the subject your child might be interested in. It does personalize the process more than just about anything else, and beats the tour guides hands down. On the other hand, if your child is undecided about what he or she wants to study, or you can’t or don’t want to line up a meeting, just go anyway.

    It’s best to ease into the college tour thing–we stopped by one that was near a vacation spot during my kid’s sophomore year, went to another over a school holiday, and really stepped it up during the junior year, ultimately visiting close to 20 schools in all.

  2. Nice advice to all parents who are in the search process. Hopefully Ben will end up at Juniata also! All the best, Tom