College Visit Planner

Call it Family Dynamics 101. Or, Whispered Conversations Overheard in a College Admissions Office.

"I knew you should have worn your blue blazer and khaki pants. Look at that young man."

"C'mon, Mom. He's a geek. Nobody in their right mind wears a blue blazer to a college interview."

"Don't forget that your father and I want to ask the interviewer about financial aid."

"You get one question -- that's it -- and try not to say anything embarrassing."

With the summer college visiting season in full swing, thousands of mini-dramas like this are being played out at campuses across the nation. Of all the rites of passage for teens and their parents, none is more significant than the family college tour.

Planning ahead is the key to success. As soon as you have a tentative itinerary, ask your son or daughter to call the admissions office and get the schedule of tours and information sessions for the date you plan to be there. (It is important to encourage your child to take responsibility for such things -- and a few private colleges go so far as to track whether student or parent makes the contact.) The admissions office is also the best source of information about places to stay. Most have a list of preferred hotels, and they can generally quote the driving time and mileage to the next college on your list.

Students should also ask about the possibility of a personal interview. Most small colleges gladly schedule them; most large universities do not, though some have a limited number of slots available for students who schedule far in advance and those with special circumstances.

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