If you’ve got a high schooler, chances are you’ll be visiting colleges before he graduates. When you invest time and money traveling to those hallowed halls of learning, it’s important to make the visit worth it. Here are 10 tips to make the most of your teen’s college tour experience.

Do Your Homework

University “A” may have an outstanding program in your teen’s preferred major, but does the campus fit his vision of his four-year (or longer) home? Take a virtual tour on the school’s website. Check out the breakdown of student activities, diversity, class sizes, and post-graduate prospects. Call and speak to admissions and financial aid representatives to answer specific questions. Then, decide if a visit is worth it or if you can cross this school off the list.

Choose the Right Tour

Some colleges have specific tours depending on major. Some tours are only offered on certain days and times. Schedule in advance and make reservations when needed to ensure a tour that gives the most relevant view of the college experience.

Make Appointments

When possible, make appointments with specific instructors or a department dean (if your teen has interest in an area of study) and find out if your teen can sit in on a class. Be sure to make an appointment with the financial aid office, too. You may learn about additional scholarship or savings opportunities that may not be publicized online.

Talk to Students

Don’t just speak to your tour guide and faculty/staff. Speak to students! Find a few and ask if they’ll talk with you. Ask why they chose the school and what they like most and least about it. Their insights will be objective and helpful.

Take Pictures and Notes

While your teen may think he’ll remember everything, time and other college visits may cause memories to blur. Use that smartphone to record important insights and pics of campus elements that stand out.

Go Off-Roading

Just because some facilities aren’t on a tour, it doesn’t mean you can’t see them. Go see the buildings that your teen would spend time in and other key spots on campus, like the student gym, theater and health center. Explore the student union, career center, religious and cultural centers, and libraries.

Get Credit for Visiting

Does an on-campus visit factor into admission decisions? Find out and be sure it’s recorded. Does the school you’re visiting have Instant Decision days, during which a high school senior can apply, be interviewed and find out about acceptance in one visit? These all-in-one events could be the ideal time to visit.

Let Your Teen Lead

Make sure your teen does the talking. This is the time for them to ask questions that are most important to them and to show that they’re mature enough to handle the college experience (mostly) independently.

Eat There

Grab a bite on campus! If the college has certain policies about food, it will impact the menus. If dietary restrictions or allergies are a concern, make sure the campus dining options can accommodate them. Also, explore the restaurants or coffee shops nearby campus to see what’s around.

Possibly Stay Overnight

To get the true on-campus experience, some schools can arrange for a teen to stay overnight in a dorm room. You’re already there, so explore that option if your teen has interest.

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