The first thing I tell students (and parents) before they leave for their visits: wear comfortable shoes! You will be doing a lot of walking, and you want to be able to focus on your surroundings and what the guide is saying—not on your feet!
Also, check the weather forecast for the period that you will be away, particularly if you are traveling any distance. While the weather can change at any given moment, it will be an indicator of how to prepare. You may want to pack a couple of travel umbrellas in your suitcase, as tours run during rain or shine. Some colleges do have umbrellas on hand should it rain, but not always—and it will depend on the size of the group. If you have enough time and you’d rather have a souvenir from the college, you can stop at the bookstore and pick one up there.
Pack so you are prepared to dress in layers; the weather might start out chilly and warm up significantly as the day progresses. If you are traveling during the winter, headed to a cold climate, and will be driving from place-to-place, keep in mind that you might hit a snowstorm. Be prepared by packing a small flashlight and a blanket—just in case!
Your teen will have the best experience possible by preparing in advance of her college visits. Share with her that she should write down any questions that she might have—questions that cannot be answered by reviewing what’s online or in the college’s printed material(s). She will then be able to ask these questions during the group information session and/or during her walk around campus with the tour guide.
If your teen is meeting with a faculty member, she should review the information about the major she is interested in and the department in general. Again, her questions should be of the sort that cannot be answered in the information she has on hand. She has a limited amount of one-on-one time with the faculty member and should use this time to get the important questions answered.
If you have arranged for an interview, make time to practice questions and answers at home, with you as the interviewer. Assure your teen that she should be herself. She should answer questions honestly, and let her know that it’s ok to show her (tasteful) sense of humor. She should be friendly and stay positive, be assertive and mention what she has done in and out of high school. She should also be a good listener as well. Make sure she arrives on time, and if you have to cancel for any reason, call ahead of time to let the admissions office know. Your teen can also prepare a few questions that she’d like to ask the interviewer. This is a good time for her to learn more about the college.
Please contact me if you’d like a copy of the ‘Tips for College Interviews’ that I give to my students. If you follow the above guidelines as well as those in the rest of this series, your trip should not only run smoothly, but your teen will get a true sense of the culture of the community of each college that she visits.
Need Assistance planning a College Visit Road Trip? Please contact us.
For many of you, the time for your teen to head off to college for the first time is right around the corner. And while we, as parents, may show more outwardly our nervousness, many of our kids—whether they tell us or not—are nervous as well. It’s only natural for them to be raising such questions as: Will I like my roommate? How will I find my way around campus? Will it be hard to me to make friends? Patti Wood, an expert in nonverbal communication and a human behavior expert, shares with us some tips that might make the transition easier for your son or daughter. I urge you to read her article (reprinted with permission) below and share the information with your teen.
By Patti Wood MA, CSP
Be open: You have the rare opportunity for a fresh start at your impression. Smile as you walk across campus, walk down your dorm or class hallway or enter any room. Take the initiative to make eye contact, say hello and introduce yourself. Keep your body language open.
Keep your body language “up”: Up body language means walking, standing, and sitting with your upper body relaxed upward. Instead of hunching over, keep your shoulders back, your head up (not bent over your electronic device), and open your hands and move them upward when you gesture.
Gesture: Moving your hands occasionally while you speak actually helps you think and speak more clearly. The location of your hands also affects other nonverbal behavior. When you are conversing with someone standing up, if you place your hands and arms at your sides your energy goes down, your voice lowers and can become more monotone, and you show fewer facial expressions. If you’re nervous, bring your hands to the level of your waist, and you will become calm and centered. If you gesture occasionally with your hands at the level of your upper chest or above, your voice automatically goes up, increases in volume, and has more variations; you actually become animated.
Start new habits: If you always texted your friends in high school to see what they were doing, now you can initiate face-to-face interactions. Knock on a dorm room door or catch people at the student union and invite them to do something with you. You be the one who says, “Hey you want to go get a coffee after class, hang together to study tonight, or meet at the cafeteria to eat?” If you used to study in your room with the door closed try studying in the college library or outside. Don’t bring your TV with you to college or spend hours watching Hulu or Netflix when you get to campus. People make lifelong friends in their first week of college. Put yourself out there to meet as many people as possible as soon as you step on campus.
Know a rebuff is seldom about you: If not every single person says hi back or takes you up on your offers for plans remember college is stressful. Most freshmen feel a bit insecure at times and, if they seem distant, don’t take it personally. Most body language rebuffs such as lack of eye contact and scowls are motivated by what is going on inside the person and not really about you.
Be helpful and considerate: Having roommates and being in a new living situation can be stressful at first, even if you click as friends. Before settling into your new space, offer to help your roommates carry in their belongings or bring snacks to share. Ask them about their interests. Introduce yourself to their families. Invite them to dinner with your family if they’ve arrived by themselves. Laying the groundwork for a positive relationship with your roommates can go a long way to help things go smoothly.
Help people form a positive impression of you in class: Your professor and your fellow students will respond to you and perhaps judge you by how you act in your classes. If you’re late all the time or if you don’t go to class, they notice. They also notice if you come prepared for class, slink to the back to sit, pay attention, ask thoughtful questions, doze off, or spend the class texting. In high school slack behavior might have been cool; in college it will get you ostracized. Each class has a different set of “rules of engagement,” so be aware of the size, structure, and instructor’s preferences for behavior. It is easier to set a positive impression at the beginning of the semester than try to erase a bad one.
Learn your classmates’ names and use the formal title to address your professor: For example, “Dr. MacEnulty” or “Professor Camel.” People respond to their names, so learn them! It’s a skill that will serve you well in most settings. Be aware of your last, or exiting, impression: Last impressions are critical. Excuse yourself if you briefly leave a conversation and or say goodbye if you are leaving a group of any kind. It might seem easier to just walk away or leave, but it actually feels better for everyone if you smile and say something to create a close. Sometimes it pays to stick around and/or make yourself visible. Stay after class occasionally and attend your instructor’s office hours to ask questions and initiate discussions around the class topic.
Mix it up when choosing who to talk to: Whether you’re at college in your home country or an international student beginning school in a brand new one, make friends with people from other countries, cultures, and backgrounds.International students who came from another country to attend college will especially appreciate your friendliness and that you include them in activities. Ask others about their home countries and try out their favorite foods. Volunteer, go to activities, and be a joiner: If there is a movie night on campus, a student union game night, or dorm room function, go! The first week of my freshman year I joined the fencing club, went to a freshman dance though I had been the girl no one ever asked to dance, went to the dorm watermelon eating contest, and volunteered to referee the impromptu volley ball game on the campus green. I met great new friends with each activity.
Go early rather than late: Research shows that arriving early actually reduces your nervousness in new situations. It’s easier to get acclimated. You can stand or sit near the door when you arrive and greet people as they come in. More anxiety reducing tips are in the book.
Ask to help: At parties you can ask for an anxiety-distracting task like taking coats from new arrivals or offering them drinks or food. Nervousness comes out of your body in many ways. One way is through your hands. When your hands are confidently occupied with useful tasks, that confidence message goes to your brain and affects your entire body. It also gives you an easy, repeatable script, questions such as “Would you like me to take your coat?” or “What can I get you to drink?” These types of questions open up the conversation.
Look for an “open” person: Search for people who are already speaking in a small cluster or someone who is standing or sitting with their feet apart a few inches, rather than crossed, pressed together, or in a “cowboy” defensive stance (for guys that is fourteen inches apart). Research shows that someone who is gesturing with open palms and smiling and occasionally moving their heads is more open to approach. If you are super shy, look for someone who looks happy and confident and do what they are doing.
Trust your radar: Steer clear of people who are negative or give off bad vibes. Look for people who have the top two first impression factors from SNAP. That usually means people who are warm, likeable, and make you feel comfortable. Go first and initiate conversation: I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Patti, you are insane. I hate to talk to people and you want me to initiate? I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.” Put down the fork. Research shows that when you initiate and move forward, you appear more confident and other people immediately feel more at ease. In addition, when they feel at ease, the comfort transfers back to you. A quick tip for when you feel anxious: take one small step forward; motion tricks your limbic brain into feeling more confident.
Introduce yourself: You can breakthrough any awkward silence that occurs when strangers meet by simply sharing your name as in, “Hello my name is Patti Wood.” Giving your name to someone is a form of self-disclosure that shows you’re willing to be open and be vulnerable. It gives the impression that you are nice. Purse snatchers don’t typically say, “Hey, my name is Max Brewer and I’ll be taking your wallet today.” Breaking through the silence by sharing your name may be a pretty basic suggestion, but it works. We are sometimes afraid to break the silence because we fear we will be met with silence or rejection. If you don’t get an immediate response after sharing your name with someone, ask, “And your name is..?”
Introduce people to each other: This gives you something practical to do. Making introductions is appreciated by others, and it takes the pressure off you. As you stand and move to bring people together, you are creating a visual connection between yourself and other people in the room that makes you look powerful and popular. They see you move toward people and act as a connection, and they think, “Boy, she [or he] knows everyone.”
Ask a question, then simply relax and listen: So much anxiety comes from not knowing what to do or how to do it well. One of the smartest things you can do to meet people is to make a positive statement like “Great T-shirt” or asking a gentle question such as “Did you see the concert on the student green last night?” or, “What did you think about class today?” This completely takes the talking pressure off you. You don’t have to be super funny or super hip to be a good listener. It’s amazing how cool people will think you are because everybody loves someone who really listens to them. More conversation starting questions are in my book.
Nod your head: I love teaching men this simple body language cue. Men generally only nod their heads when they agree, while women nod to show they are listening. So guys, if you’re interested, nod as you listen. Women love it and nodding your head actually releases “feel good” chemicals into your blood stream. About the Author Patti Wood is an internationally recognized nonverbal communication and human behavior expert. She has conducted years of research in the field of human behavior. The media seek her insights on celebrities, politicians and people in the news. Please check out her website for great information and tips on nonverbal communication.
Patti Wood is the Author of SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and CharismaSnap. Snap is available at Independent Bookstores Patti Wood Author of Snap
Once you have decided on your college road trip route, it’s time to take care of the logistics and make your arrangements. Having an understanding of what to expect and how to move forward in an organized manner will help make the process go smoothly.
The first thing you need to do is figure out how much time you will need in each college town that you will be visiting. If you will be on college campuses when classes are in session and you’ve got several individual activities and/or meetings planned, (and you can afford the time), you’ll want to allow a full day for each campus visit. Unless you’re willing to forgo customized arrangements at some of the schools and/or they’re in close proximity to each other (such as UPenn & Drexel and Carnegie Mellon & University of Pittsburgh), you’ll find that you will want enough time to allow your teen to truly experience the culture of the college community. Also allow time for unscheduled stops and think about things that could pop up suddenly. Planning for the unexpected will keep the stress to a minimum.
The next step is taking care of your transportation needs. Let’s start with air arrangements. There are certain things you will need to consider if you are flying from one destination to another. In some metropolitan areas, such as Chicago and Washington, DC, there is more than one airport that serves the region. Make sure that you book your flights into the airport that is most convenient for you to get to the college that you are visiting first. For instance, if you will be visiting Johns Hopkins, George Washington and Georgetown and the first visit is to Johns Hopkins, it makes the most sense to book your flight into Baltimore/Washington International Airport instead of into Dulles or Reagan National.
You’ll also want to consider your best options when going shorter distances. Perhaps you are heading from Princeton University to NYU. It may make more sense logistically for you to take the train instead of driving to New York. It is both expensive and difficult to find parking in New York and you most likely will not be using the car during your stay in the city. Check out all your options before you confirm your transportation arrangements.
You can follow the same guidelines when making your hotel arrangements. If possible, make arrangements at a nearby hotel that will make getting to campus easy. If you’re planning to take public transportation, note the distance from the hotel to the closest metro or bus stop. It’s an added bonus if you can walk to campus, especially in a city, where parking on campus is extremely limited and street parking may be metered and/or short-term.
Prior to departure, you will want to make sure that you’ve got all of your travel information in a place that makes it easy for you to retrieve. When working with my clients, I prepare two different written itineraries for their trip. One is an ‘Overview Itinerary’ that gives a quick glance at what is happening for each day that they will be away. The other is a daily, detailed itinerary. For each day I list everything that will happen on that day, in the order that the events will take place. The itinerary includes any special directions; where to meet for the group tour; where to park, etc. It includes approximate time needed to get from one place to another and the contacts for each activity. Chances are, you won’t need the contact information, but it’s great to have it on hand just in case. Try to keep any maps, meal tickets, parking passes, travel documents, etc. in one place so they’re easily accessible. If you follow the guidelines above, you’ll find that the planning process will run smoothly and you’ll feel more confident about your plans as departure day approaches. Need Assistance planning a College Visit Road Trip? Please contact us.
Planning on-campus visit arrangements for your trip will be vital to keeping things on an even keel and keeping stress at bay. Remember that many other parents and students will also be attending college tours at the same time, so it is important to get your itinerary set as soon as possible.
You will set up appointments with academic advisors, financial aid counselors, department chairs, athletic coaches and others, according to the goals that your child has set and the ‘musts’ that he or she has already determined (see our blog post Creating a List of Musts). When scheduling, I find that the easiest place to start is by registering for the group information session and the group campus tour. Then you can work to plan your other arrangements around those two events. Everything may fall perfectly into place—or it may not. You may find that the schedules of some of the people do not coincide with what you’ve already planned, and you’ll have to reschedule one of the group events. This is one of the reasons why I always urge people to plan as far in advance as possible—making these arrangements can be quite time-consuming—almost like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle.
Where do you start to make these arrangements? These days, with a few exceptions, you can register for the group events online. In most cases, when visiting a college’s website, you’ll want to start by visiting the ‘Admissions’ or ‘Admissions and Financial Aid’ page. There you’ll usually find a ‘Visit’ or ‘Visit Us’ page. This page will list a calendar of admissions events and you will be able to choose the times that work best for you. Keep in mind that February through April are the busiest months for college visits and you do run the risk of some of these time slots being full. My suggestion is to leave yourself at least two to three weeks to schedule these events.
If you’re planning to schedule meetings with professors, check first with the admissions office to see if they handle those arrangements. If they don’t, you will need to call the undergraduate academic department on your own. If you search the specific department page, you should be able to find a listing of department faculty and staff. Reach out to a department administrator or coordinator or directly to the chair of the department. The easiest way to communicate is usually by email. If you do not hear back within a few days, follow up with a phone call or a reminder email. Keep in mind that sometimes it will take quite a while before you actually secure an appointment time. And in some cases, if a professor is not available, you may have to reach out to another department that is of interest to your teen.
I contact athletic coaches in much the same way. If you do not reach the coach or assistant coach after a week or two, you might try to reach out to the athletic director. Keep in mind that if you are looking at schools in a different time zone, that you will have to consider the time difference when you are making your calls.
If you have the time and your trip coincides with the days and dates that they are offered, schedule an overnight stay for your teen. It is a great way to learn more about life on campus—experiencing dorm life, tasting the food and checking out the food choices, interacting with current students in a non-academic environment, etc. When doing your planning, either check the ‘visit’ page or call the admissions office to find out more about when each school offers this opportunity. Organized visits are almost always scheduled through the admissions office. Usually, overnights are reserved for seniors and are offered on specific days of the week. Make sure to call about these arrangements no later than two weeks before the date you hope to visit. If you can’t schedule an organized overnight, perhaps there is a friend that is a current student on campus that would be willing to host your teen for a night.
If there’s time during your visit you should also try to schedule a class visit. At most schools, the best days for class visits are Monday through Thursday. Not as many course choices are available on Fridays and some schools, like NYU, do not even offer the option on Fridays. Again, check the ‘visit’ section of the website. Some colleges post the classes that prospective students may visit on their website. Others have a list in the admissions office. Some require visitors to sign up in advance and at others you can make the decision upon arrival. At many schools, the class visit option is available for the student only, so you may have a chance to check out an area of campus that is of specific interest to you.
No doubt there is a lot of work involved in planning a campus tour road trip, and making the customized on-campus arrangements do take a lot of time. But, they are the crux of the trip! By allowing your teen to experience the ‘musts’ on his list, he, as well as you, will come away from the trip with a great sense of culture of the community of each college that you visit. Need Assistance planning a College Visit Road Trip? Please contact us.
Part 1 – The Benefits of a College Visit Part 2 – Setting Goals for College Visits Part 3 – Determining Your Travel Route Part 4 – Planning On-Campus Visit Arrangements Part 5 – Taking Care of Logistics Janice Caine