If you have teenagers, you have likely had conversations with them about college. You may have focused those talks around your own experiences, or you may have wistfully shared with your kids your desire to see them in a particular university. But you may think that it’s too early to take your kids on college visits and I’m here to tell you it’s not. College shopping is always a good idea.
1. Your kids see, firsthand, the destination at the end of their high school journey. They physically walk around campus and talk to tour guides, all the while envisioning their future life in that place. Being on a college campus is powerful. It gives kids a tangible projection of what their futures might hold. They see more mature versions of themselves and visualize taking care of themselves and living independently. This is way more powerful than hearing you say for the ten-thousandth time that they need to grow up.
2. Having experienced this, kids gain substantially more focus. They’ve seen where they want to be, and they’re more willing to do what it takes to get there. Rather than walking through their high school years with ambiguity and living moment by moment, teens will do something very un-teen-like: they will see beyond this moment, this day, and this week to a future they must work toward, a purpose for their studies.
3. They may hear something, see something, or be exposed to something that acts as an impetus to a major decision down the road. It could be a career path, a hobby, a lifestyle, or just an environment that they had no previous knowledge or understanding of but now realize they really want. This is BIG for teens who are often accused of being apathetic and directionless.
4. They’ll know exactly what they need to do to get into the college of their dreams, pursue a particular program, or earn a scholarship. The earlier they know this, the better, because they can set up their course load and sign up for clubs and organizations that will best prepare them. If they need a certain math class to get into a certain college or program, they’ll know that. They won’t be caught short their senior year and have to take summer classes to qualify.
5. They get a better idea of what they DON’T want, whether it’s a small campus or large, a party atmosphere or a conservative one, or whether it’s even college itself. Determining this ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of time and effort transferring kids from one school to another. And it can help them identify who they are becoming and what environment feels the most comfortable.
6. They can get plugged into universities of interest and begin establishing contacts, networks, and relationships. Then they can attend summer program or camps, follow university blogs and other social media, and let their presence be known as highly interested and engaged students. Everyone likes to feel as if they’re the number one choice, and colleges are no exception.
Summer is the perfect time to attend colleges for the first time. Consider summer visits as fact-finding missions. Once you’ve narrowed down the search, be sure to visit when school is in session to get a true feel for the academic and social atmosphere. You won’t regret getting the jump on college decision-making, and I’m betting you’ll enjoy sharing this experience with your kids.