College Tour Tips for Parents

Get nine tips all parents can use during college visit season. Learn how to prepare, what to wear and if parents should ask questions on the college tour.

Shawna Newman

February 22, 2024

College Tour Tips for Parents
Parents shouldn't have a leading role during a college visit.
Many parents consider spring break the perfect season to plan a few college visits. Not only does this work with your high school student's busy schedule, but it serves several important purposes. You'll be helping your child narrow down their college list and your family has a great excuse for an adventure together. As you're working toward giving your child more independence, you still have an important role in the college tour process. And as much as some students hate to admit it, choosing a college to attend is an important decision and having you as a part of it means a lot to them. Below are nine college tour tips parents can use to help their students get the most from college visits without being overbearing.

What Parents Should Do During Campus Visits

Encourage your student to prepare questions for the tour.

Prior to each campus visit, ask your child what they feel is important to ask on the upcoming tour. If they're not sure what they are going to ask, review some common college tour questions with them. Work together to come up with an agreeable list. These are questions they feel comfortable asking, not you. Bring these questions with you on each college tour. This is a great way to compare and evaluate each campus visit.
Some great questions to ask on college tours include:

Financial Aid Questions

  • What types of institutional scholarships do you offer?
  • If a student meets these scholarship requirements, can they use it all four years?
  • What types of on-campus jobs are offered?
  • Campus Security Questions

  • Is there a campus police department that's on duty 24/7?
  • Are there any free self-defense courses offered for students?
  • What's the crime rate of the campus/city?
  • College Return on Investment Questions

  • What's the university's overall job placement data for graduates?
  • What's the job placement rate for the major/department your child is interested in?
  • Do you offer free career counseling services to students?
  • Student Life Questions

  • What type of extracurricular activities or clubs can students get involved in?
  • What are your traditional events? Such as Family Weekend, Homecoming, Greek Rush Week, Etc.
  • Are there any student-support resources? Such as tutoring, counseling, on-site medical clinics, etc.
  • Let your child take the lead.

    There's a fine line for parents on campus tours. Parents are essentially there for moral support. Help them prepare for the visit, but remember, this is their campus tour. Don't smother them; the opportunity to be more involved will happen after the college tour, as you're reviewing the experience together. Allow them to test their independence by asking the questions on the college tour. If your student freezes up and fails to ask any questions from their list, don't worry. They will have the chance to get answers to their questions later.

    Dress for comfort.

    Many college tours are student led. Often called student ambassadors, these real college students are excited and knowledgeable about the university. Campus tour guides tend to navigate campus quickly; some even give group tours while walking backward! You're going to want to wear comfortable tennis shoes and clothing to stay with the pace.

    Check out the weather forecast beforehand.

    College admissions offices keep walking tour group numbers low and have a limited number of tours available during the college-visit season. Expect your tour to happen even if it is drizzling or chilly outside. While most college admissions offices provide umbrellas for tours on rainy days, be sure to bring yours if rain is in the forecast. Pack a light jacket too if you have an early-morning tour. An uncomfortable tour can negatively impact the experience, fueling a negative review.

    Have lunch in a dining hall.

    Most college tours include an immersive lunch experience in a dorm cafeteria for prospective students. Review the tour schedule beforehand to see if this is a part of the tour. If you're not offered lunch, make it a plan to grab something to eat on campus. Your student will get a preview of their food options and may even get the chance to chat with current students.

    Take notes.

    On the tour evaluate the campus environment. Notice how excited and passionate professors are or aren't when talking to your student. Make mental notes or text yourself important observations you want to discuss—LATER—with your child. Use your phone to take notes on facts you felt were important, concerns and questions, or parts of the tour that perked your student's interest.

    Get the guide's email address.

    It's almost a given that you and/or your student will think of more questions to ask after the tour is over. Similarly, your student may have been so thrilled that they completely forgot to ask the tour guide any questions. Before the tour concludes, ask the student tour guide or an admissions counselor for their email address. As you review the tour together, ask your student how they feel about emailing the questions to the tour guide or someone on the admissions team. Encourage your student to include you on the email as well.

    Explore the campus and town after the tour.

    If you have time, walk around campus to look at the places you find interesting. Check out some of the campus amenities like the:
  • Student Union
  • Campus Store and Bookstore
  • Library
  • Gym
  • Theatre
  • Art Galleries and Museums
  • Touring the city is often an overlooked college tour highlight; it's a great opportunity to evaluate the town's culture. As you explore the town, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is the cost of living reasonable in this town?
  • What types of city transportation options are available?
  • Do you feel safe?
  • Does the city offer stores and restaurants you frequent?
  • Is there a hospital? Farmer's Market? Grocery Stores? Pharmacy?
  • College students are considered an important part of the local community. They boost business and fuel growth. Stop by the chamber of commerce to see what types of festivals or events are happening throughout the year.

    Recap the tour with your student.

    Don’t wait a few days to chat about the campus tour. It's best to chat and reflect on the visit, while the experience is fresh. Share notes and compare the pros and cons. Ask your student if they'd like to create, or have you put together a college visit binder. Include the college viewbook first in the folder and place the pro and con list specific to that college, after. Using a scale, have your student rank the university after your discussion. Include the rank on the pros and cons list—you'll use this later. Practice the same evaluation process after each college visit. When it's time to make that college decision, your student will have all the notes they need to pick the right college. From frequently asked financial aid questions to how to prepare your student for college, you can find more helpful information on the Fastweb Parent Resource Page.

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