March 17, 2010 -- It's that time of year again when thousands of high school students and their parents hit the road to look at colleges.
College tours are important because you and your child can determine whether the school is a good match socially and academically.
But what should you do to prepare for these trips? And what should you look for once you are there?
Here are some tips to help you and your family through the process.
Before You Go
Traveling to schools can be expensive, so work with your child to narrow down the list of possible schools. You can also "buddy up" with other interested students and parents to combine trips. The parents can take turn chaperoning the group to save on travel costs.
Contact the admissions office to arrange a sleepover in a dorm. It's a good way for your child to find out what living in a dorm is all about.
Reach out to friends, family or school alumni to see if you can meet and ask questions.
Contact professors, coaches, and organizations in your child's area of interest and arrange a time to drop by while you and your child are visiting.
Take a virtual tour on the school's Web site and try listen to a virtual lecture if available.
Connect with current students on Facebook and ask for suggestions on who to meet and what to see while you are on campus.
While You Are at the College
Take the official tour offered by the college. Most school Web sites list dates and times of tours. Be sure to make a reservation before you visit.
Sign in at the admissions or touring office and leave all of your contact information so the school knows you made the effort to see the school in person.
What to Look For During a College Tour
Listen to the college radio station, grab the school paper and check out the bulletin boards to get a sense of the community.
Visit the college bookstore, eat in the cafeteria and see if there are any campus activities you can attend to get a feel for campus life.
Check out student parking. Student parking is often limited, especially for freshmen.
Follow up with professors you've visited and/or whose classes you've visited. Thank them for their time and ask any additional questions. Your child showing interest in their course is an excellent first impression.