How to Survive College Tours With Your Stressed Out Teenager

What To Know Before You Tour Colleges With Your Teenager

As you head out on college tours this spring, we want to help you anticipate how to get the most out of your trips (and maybe we’ll save you from some adolescent eye rolls in the meantime!). Follow our grassy path to a successful college visit...



You’ve driven five hours in the car with a teenager more immersed in Instagram than you thought possible, so let’s make sure your visit counts. That means you need to make sure each college knows your child was there (sign in!) and that your child walks away with some details for a (potential) supplementary essay (see below). 


College visits can quickly start to feel like a blur. Encourage your child to write down the names of tour guides, buildings, classes, professors, and anything else memorable because most schools include supplementary essays for their applications that ask students to specifically chart their reasons for applying. Stanford does not want to read an essay that could have just as easily been written to Penn, and keeping details in an organized folder will help when application times rolls around.  


Applying to a selective school with a beautiful campus is tempting, but we also want our kids to thrive once they get to college, and that means picking a school with the right support, level of rigor, and social life. Pay attention to bulletin boards, percentage of students participating in Greek life, and the content of the school paper to help figure out what life on campus might be like.  Are students politically engaged? More focused on intellectual pursuits outside of the classroom? Excited about social gatherings? What kinds of clubs are available? Need a core curriculum? Need way more freedom academically? What about a supportive advisor? These things really matter once you get into school, and touring is the first step in finding the right fit.


Many schools give you a voucher for a meal on campus. Eating in one of the student cafeterias means understanding how the student body interacts and allows for some good eavesdropping! Oftentimes students are also happy to stop and chat to prospective applicants, so see if you can survey a few (other than your tour guide) to get more perspectives about life on campus. 


Try your best to hold off on “embarrassing” questions (we know it’s tempting!) and allow your child to drive conversations. Your child will thank you for it later by putting the phone down long enough to have a conversation on that five hour drive home. 


We know what a pivotal moment this is in your child’s life, and we want to make sure you have all the support you need during this exciting time. If you have any questions in advance of your child’s college tours, we’d love to chat--reach out to us via email to set up a time for a call!