If your son is applying to boarding school or college this fall you may well be in the thick of school visits these days. Here are a few tips for making these visits as productive as possible for you and your son:

  • Encourage your son to commit to this process of looking at schools, no matter how confused or unsure he may be about what he wants from any school.   The more he researches and visit schools, the better he will be able to determine what he is looking for. Tell him he is not looking for the perfect school, he is looking for a group of schools he might like to attend.
  • Parents must commit to this process as well. Scheduling these visits and arranging the tours and information sessions at these schools is time consuming, and can be tedious. But spots on the tours and/or info sessions fill up, so you have to keep calling or logging in online until you’ve made all the relevant appointments. Most schools offer a guided tour and an information session, and some will offer an interview. Appointments are generally required for all of these.
  • As much as you would like to encourage your son’s independence by having him make all the appointments himself, unless he is incredibly disciplined and organized you should take control of this process to ensure that it gets done. Why make a stressful process even more so?
  • Encourage him to think broadly about what schools he wants to see. Even if he is absolutely convinced that he does not want a _________ school (fill in the blank: small, big, urban, etc.), he should be sure to visit at least one, and do so with an open mind. He may confirm that it is not what he wants, or he might be surprised to find that he could be comfortable in this setting.
  • A key question he should ask himself as he spends time on the campus: Can he           see himself at this school? Are there any groups of students walking around that look like people he’d like to know?
  • Here is a suggestion from my college graduate daughter which really helped her during this process: Before leaving a campus in which your son has any interest, he should ask three random people at the school the following questions:

What do you like most about being here?

Why did you pick this school?

What are you studying?

Not only will your son learn the answers to these questions, he can also get a sense of how friendly/helpful the students are (or are not).

  • Encourage your son to take the time to wander around on his own a bit outside of a tour. He can find students to chat with, and get a better sense of the feel of the campus.
  • Pack snacks, as it can be a long day without many food breaks, especially if you see more than one school in a day (More than two not recommended. Often results in sensory overload.)

Wishing you good luck and lots of stamina as you visit schools. Have any other tips? Please share if you do.