How to have a Stress-free Campus Visit

how parents have a stress-free campus visit

Many families who take their teen on campus visits, usually visit several colleges at once to make the most of their time away. While it may save time to do these marathon visits, seeing several colleges in a 3-5 day time span can be draining. (Been there, done that!)

Top 5 tips for a stress-free campus visit

  1. Avoid bringing friends or others who may influence your teen’s perspective. It can be a distraction. Sometimes, you may not have a choice in whether you bring your teen’s best friend, family members or a neighbor. I understand so . . . keep reading to tip #2.
  1. Take separate tours. For some campuses, there may be more than one tour guide, especially when you visit during their
    columbia campus
    Concerned about safety? Visit campus at night!

    busy summer or fall months. If you have choice I would encourage you to go with a different guide than your teen. The tour guides bring their own unique experiences and backgrounds to the tour. You may hear different facts and figures about a campus that you can compare with your teen later. Also, when your teen follows a separate tour guide, it gives them the freedom to reflect and take in the tour for themselves, or ask questions that they not ask in front of you! 🙂

  1. Attend the information session even if you think there’s nothing new to learn. There will be some nuances that you will learn during the information session that for whatever reason, you haven’t already read or heard before. (I do these tours year round and some colleges I’ve visited 2-3 times. Each time, I learn something totally new.) Foregoing the information session compromises the purpose of visiting the campus.
  1. Avoid dominating the Q&A session. Most information sessions will have a Q&A session. It’s OK for parents to ask 1 or 2 questions, but please avoid asking too many questions. If you’re on a separate tour, perhaps that’s a time to ask additional questions in private. I would especially discourage parents from asking a lot of questions of the admissions officer. That’s what your teen should be doing!
  1. Check out the neighborhood surrounding the college campus. If there’s time, you may want to walk through the nearby “town” area, check out a restaurant or browse the retail shops. When your teen goes away to college, it will be their home away from home so they should feel comfortable either on campus or off. If you are concerned about safety in the area, I would also even suggest checking out the area at night.

Ultimately, the campus visit is about your teen . . . from making the reservation to deciding to apply or not. These tips are meant to keep the focus on them, their reflections and impressions.

How were your visits? Where did you go and for how long??

Last-minute Campus Visit Tips for College-bound Seniors

campus visits in senior year

Every fall, there are are college-bound seniors who decide to add a college (or 2!) to their list that they haven’t visited. In some cases, maybe a senior hasn’t been able to visit any colleges at all. There are still last-minute opportunities to visit a campus prior to the early November deadlines.

I urge seniors to visit those campuses where they have a strong interest. The campus visit can help with determining whether to keep that college on the list and writing the “Why this college?” essay. Also, many high schools encourage campus visits by permitting seniors to visit colleges without an absence penalty.

3 top tips for Senior campus visits

For those college-bound seniors who are visiting in the fall, here are 3 tips to get the most from a last-minute visit:

Blue lights are everywhere!
Blue lights are everywhere!
  • Sleep overnight –This is a great way to experience dorm life, meet students, and getting sense for the campus vibe. You’ll know right away if you “fit in” or not.
  • Interview – The admissions office may offer interviews. This will be a time that you can shine beyond your application. Be careful though . . . if you think that the interview with hurt your application, rather than help, then don’t interview.
  • Visit the campus at night – Almost every campus has a blue-light system. However, walking around the campus at night or the surrounding neighborhood will help you determine if you still feel safe in that environment. This is especially important if you’re concerned about safety and the college doesn’t offer an overnight opportunity.

Special visit programs for College-bound Seniors

So as stressful as the application season may be, the campus visit is still an important component to include on your schedule. Some of the campuses that offer overnight programs or special senior weekends are

This is a short list of colleges but there many others. Check out the admissions page of the college that interests you to learn about their special programs for high school seniors.

Where are you visiting?

What you didn’t know about academics and social scene at MIT

mit engineering computer science

MIT is well known for its highly selective academic programs in computer science and engineering. Most people, however, aren’t aware that MIT also has distinguished programs in the humanities, social sciences, architecture, and business. It’s worth noting that the MIT Sloan School of Management even offers a full undergraduate business program, unlike Stanford.

mit highly selective
MIT highly selective

MIT has a core curriculum with humanities and science courses required for all students. Like Williams College, MIT students take 4 courses per semester and typically declare their major by end of freshman year. For those students who want even more varied course offerings, MIT does cross-register with Harvard, Wellesley, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Every MIT student must pass the swim test to graduate, like Columbia University.

MIT started the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, now adapted at many other universities across the country. About 85% of MIT students take advantage of these research opportunities, which can be done for course credit or stipend.

Additional quick facts about MIT:

Acceptance: 8%

Freshmen retention: 98%

Freshmen from out of state: 93%

4-year Graduation rate: 84%

Most popular majors: mechanical engineering, computer science/engineering, electrical engineering/computer science

Social: MIT has the most varsity sports of any Division 3 school, with 20% student participation. In addition to athletics, there are over 500 clubs, 70-80 of which are performing arts clubs. Half of the guys at MIT pledge a fraternity.

Housing: All freshmen live on campus and approximately 90% of upperclassmen. Housing is guaranteed for 4 years, which is especially for the majority of MIT students who are from outside Massachusetts. Similar to the housing system at CalTech, MIT students can choose where they want to live.

Similar colleges to consider: CalTech, Rochester Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania

Financial aid: MIT offers only need-based scholarships, with 100% of need met. For students with family incomes of $75,000 and under, MIT ensures that those students do not pay anything for tuition. Although the cost of attendance is $67,000, the average need-based financial aid package is $39K. About 90% of students receive scholarships/financial aid.

What do you think about MIT? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Boston College for undecided college-bound teen

chestnut hill campus boston college

If your college-bound teen is undecided and seeking a solid medium size college with 5,000 to 10,000 students, Boston College may be worth a look. Boston College pursues its mission through rigorous intellectual development, an advanced global research, and integration of religious dialogue and community life. The Core Curriculum at Boston College requires students to take classes in these areas:

  • the artsjesuit catholic university
  • cultural diversity
  • history
  • literature
  • mathematics
  • philosophy
  • science
  • social science
  • theology
  • writing

The name Boston “College” is a misnomer because it’s actually a research university with 9 schools and colleges. (Boston “University” is already taken) By taking classes across varied areas of study and having access to specialized programs, students have a great opportunity to find the major that interests them.

Campus visit tip:  Boston College is a Catholic institution and during your visit, make sure you’re comfortable with this aspect of their mission.

Additional quick facts about Boston College:

Acceptance:  29%

Freshmen retention:  95%top athletic teams boston college

Freshmen from out of state:  75%

4-year Graduation rate:  89%

Most popular majors:  finance, economics, communications

Housing: The majority of Boston College students live on campus. Housing guarantees are either 3 or 4 years. Students with a 3-year housing guarantee study abroad or live off-campus during junior year. Boston College is in a suburban location and only 20 minutes from Boston so the off-campus options are pretty good with varied public transportation options.  Dorms are known to be comfortable and spacious.

Social life:  As at other Jesuit universities, Boston College does not have Greek life. There are still lots of social activities like sporting events, movies, festivals, concerts, and plays, and “volunteer work is huge,” says one student.

Similar colleges to consider to develop list: University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, Villanova, Columbia University

Financial aid: Boston College offers both need-based and merit aid, with 100% of need met. The cost of attendance is $65,000 and the average financial aid package is $35K, with 66% of students receiving aid.

What do you think about Boston College? Would the Core Curriculum be a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Internships, study abroad and research at Claremont McKenna

claremont mckenna college

Claremont McKenna College is a highly selective college among the consortium of The Claremont Colleges and has a real world focus. Students who fit well at Claremont McKenna have high ambitions in business leadership and public affairs. Although its student body of 1,300 qualifies as “small”, the campus has much to offer students interested in government, economics, business, and international relations. A senior said that Claremont McKenna is a “great place for a practical liberal arts education that prepares you for grad school and career.”

claremont mckenna business policy internationalClaremont McKenna community is guided by a free exchange of ideas, real world service and work experience, and opportunities for advance research – 93% of students participate in internships, 50% study abroad and 79% do research. The 11 research institutes located on campus offer CMC undergraduates numerous opportunities to study everything from political demographics to the environment.

Campus visit note: If you’re planning to visit more that one of The Claremont Colleges, plan to spend at least a day since the campus visit schedule usually has times that overlap.


Additional quick facts about Claremont McKenna:

Acceptance: 11%

Freshmen retention: 95%

Freshmen from out of state: 54%claremont mckenna campus

4-year Graduation rate: 77%

Most popular majors: Economics, Government, Psychology

Housing: All freshmen live on campus and approximately 90% of upperclassmen. Since there are no all-freshman dorms, each residence has a minimum of 20% of new students. Gender-inclusive housing is an option where students can live with any student regardless of identity.

Similar colleges to consider to develop list: University of Southern California, Occidental College, Georgetown University, Brown

Financial aid: Claremont McKenna College offers both need-based and merit aid, with 100% of need met. Although the cost of attendance is $70,000, the average financial aid package is $38K. About half of students receive scholarships/financial aid.

What do you think about Claremont McKenna? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Furman offers internships and research in all-residential community

Furman is a small, liberal arts college located in Greenville, SC that takes advantage of its size and location. The 2,700 undergraduates have access to faculty-mentored research projects and all faculty serve as advisors. The largest class at Furman has only 32 students. Over two-thirds of Furman students participate in internships, often with the 200+ companies in the local area. As a 100% residential campus, students can build long-lasting friendships throughout their undergraduate years.

Two Furman programs worth noting are the 5-year program in Education and another in Chemistry.


Acceptance: 65%

Freshmen from out of state: 72%

Most popular majors: Political science, Health Sciences, Business Administration

Housing: Furman is 100% residential, which means that all students live on campus all 4 years. They fondly describe their housing system as “7 years of friendships”!! Varied housing options on campus include apartments and eco-housing for sustainable living.

4-year Graduation rate: 79%

Academics:  Furman’s Health Sciences major is particularly strong for its pre-med students. Furman’s program helps pre-med students with getting all of their non-academic requirements for a competitive medical school applications – research, internships and community service. Pre-med majors also get assistance with MCAT and medical school applications.

Furman offers a May immersion experience with 2-credit courses. Undergraduate research opportunities start in the summer after freshman year with a faculty mentor.

Many Furman students graduate with a minor. The most popular minor is Poverty Studies. The fastest growing major is currently Sustainability Science.

Social: Participation in campus life is encouraged through 4 required “cultural life” points per semester. There are 200+ cultural life activities a year, so it’s rather easy for students to get credit for taking advantage of all the fun and interesting events.

Financial: Furman offers merit aid and need-based financial aid, with 80% of need met, towards the cost of attendance, which is around $64,000. Furman’s merit scholarships do not require test scores to qualify.

What do you think of Furman? What do you think of test-optional scholarships? Please post your comments below.

Vassar has an independent, interdisciplinary and creative spirit

Vassar is a highly selective, small, coeducational liberal arts college, located just 70 miles north of New York City and known for its liberal traditions. Vassar prides itself on curricular flexibility, tolerance, and diversity.vassar liberal arts college

Multidisciplinary studies have been a distinctive feature of academic life at Vassar for several decades, fostering an intellectual environment that thrives on crossing disciplinary boundaries. A great example of this academic freedom and mindset is the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, created by five professors in biology, psychology and computer science where students can investigate with physical robots as well as computer simulations of virtual robots.

The college’s 1,000-acre campus, just outside Poughkeepsie, New York, is decorated with architecture which is predominantly neo-Gothic and yes, the library does look like a scene out of Harry Potter.

Acceptance: 26%

Freshmen from out of state: 71%

Most popular majors: economics, English, psychology

Housing: Guaranteed housing all four years

4-year Graduation rate: 88%

Vassar College

Academics: Vassar began as a women’s college in 1861 and went coed in 1968. There is no core curriculum and no general education or distribution requirements. Academic flexibility is paramount. That said, all students must take a Freshman Course, a small seminar emphasizing oral and written expression, as well as one course that requires significant quantitative analysis (similar to Hamilton College, also in New York).

More than half the students at Vassar double-major, with the most popular majors being English, political science, psychology, economics, and biological sciences. 70% of Vassar students go to graduate school, with medical school being the largest percent. Absolutely love that all freshmen have their own librarian.

Social: Vassar doesn’t have a Greek system, so social life revolves around films, lectures, parties, concerts, and the like. With its strong theatrical department, Vassar has 50+ theatre productions per year. A senior remarked that, “There are more than 1,000 events registered on the campus every year, which is nearly 40 events a week.”  Student Association, WVKR radio station, Vassar Greens, and ultimate Frisbee are influential in student social life. Popular events include Spring Concert, Founder’s Day, and All Campus Halloween Party.

Financial: Vassar offers merit scholarships and need-based financial aid, with 100% of need fully met.  The average financial aid package is $45,000 and 60% of students receive awards. Interestingly, the family income of students who received financial aid ranged from $0 to $270,000.

What do you think of Vassar? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Vanderbilt beyond beautiful campus: A great fit for engineering, research, community, study abroad and foodies

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University, the smallest and only private college in SEC conference, offers 68 undergraduate majors across four schools and colleges: the College of Arts and Science, School of Engineering, Peabody School of Education and Human Development, and Blair School of Music. Students apply to a school. Each school is special in its own way and worth highlighting further. Students in the College of Arts and Science can design their own major. There are 8 tracks in the School of Engineering and students choose 3 of those tracks in which to take courses during their freshman year. The Organization Development major in the Peabody School requires an off-campus internship either in 2nd semester junior year or first semester of senior year. Since the Blair School only has an undergraduate program and is NOT a conservatory, students earn their degree through another school.

Prospective students usually fall in love with the Vanderbilt campus. Its park-like campus is located in the heart of Midtown, surrounded by restaurants, shops, and cultural destinations. There are, in fact, over 80 restaurants within walking distance of the campus. (Foodies beware!) On the main campus, art and sculptures dot the landscape and architectural styles range from Gothic to modern glass and brick.

Vanderbilt University

Don’t let the beautiful campus fool you, though. . . .Vanderbilt is still one of the most selective colleges in the US. Check out their acceptance rate and these additional quick facts about Vanderbilt:

Acceptance: 8.8%

Freshmen from out of state: 89%

Most popular majors: social sciences, engineering, interdisciplinary studies (No wonder with the flexibility students have to double-major across schools.)

Housing: 86% of undergraduates live in the dorms. All freshman live together which can be a plus for meeting new friends and building a tighter class community.

4-year Graduation rate: 84%

Academics: Vanderbilt’s study abroad program attracts 35 percent of students and offers the chance to spend a summer, a semester, or a year on one of six continents through 130 programs. There’s even a May-mester option to study abroad, so no excuse for students not to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. An interdisciplinary approach to learning is embraced and undergrads are encouraged to take classes across all four schools. From their first year, undergraduates can get involved with cutting-edge research with world-renowned faculty and participate in internships. Keep in mind, though, Vanderbilt does not offer a “co-op” program.

Social: Vanderbilt students have remarked that “Nashville is so much fun,” and “The list of excellent restaurants, bars, shopping, and live music venues is endless.” In addition to the 500+ student clubs, over half of undergraduate women participate in sororities and 30% of the guys. Although many Greek parties are open to the entire campus, the strong participation in Greek life may suggest that Vanderbilt is not be the best fit if a teen is not interested in Greek life.

Vanderbilt has a long tradition of community service, starting an “alternative spring break” as far back as the 70s. Today, an impressive 75% of students participate in community service.

Financial: Vanderbilt offers university grants and need-based financial aid, with 100% of need fully met.  Their financial packages do not include loans (hooray!). Thus, Vanderbilt’s offers include only gift monies and a small amount of expected student employment.

What do you think of Vanderbilt? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Oberlin: Funky intellectual community with lots of music, art and co-ops

Oberlin has a distinct history of challenging intellectual and social conventions. It was the first to adopt a policy to admit students of color and the first to educate women in an undergraduate program. This history shapes the diverse student experience today. Individuality is valued at Oberlin, which fosters strong bonds among an eclectic community of bright and talented students from around the world. Interestingly enough, much of the domestic student body hails from New York and California.oberlin music

Oberlin is an intellectual community where students explore ideas because they are inspired to learn, not for the sake of grades. Since 1920, more Oberlin graduates have earned Ph.D.s than have graduates of any other predominately undergraduate institution. Wow!

Acceptance: 33%

Freshmen from out of state: 95%

Most popular majors: politics, biology, music

Housing: All freshmen live on campus. Only seniors can live off-campus. The varied housing options include co-ops, several of which focused on foreign languages. For $5, students can rent up to two original works of art to decorate their room (what a deal!). Every dorm has a piano.

4-year Graduation rate: 73%

Academics: Oberlin has been a leader among liberal arts colleges that promote their science offerings, with biology and chemistry being two of their strongest departments. Undergraduates can also major in interdisciplinary programs like neuroscience and biopsychology.

There is no core curriculum but students must take classes humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Oberlin offers a winter term, which allows independent study in January. Undergrads must complete 3 winter terms to graduate.  75% study abroad and 65% engage in research with faculty mentors.

A nice perk to having a conservatory on campus is that private lessons are free when you take a music class for credit.

Social: Music is big on Oberlin’s campus. My tour guide boasted that there are 2-3 music events held on campus every day. Some of the most popular events feature music performances, such as orchestra concerts, jazz ensemble concerts, opera and theater productions, Friday Night Organ Pump concerts, and Hip Hop Conference. Student radio is the second largest organization. Students actively participate in 200 student groups and 70% engage in service projects.

Oberlin College & Conservatory

Financial: Oberlin offers merit aid and need-based financial aid, with 100% of need fully met.  Although the tuition and fees are $67,000, the average financial aid package is $37K. 83% of students receive scholarships. Oberlin offers both need-based and merit aid. Oberlin meets 100% of need.

What do you think about Oberlin? What about this college is a good fit for you? Please post your comments below.

Union College has interdisciplinary studies, engineering and unique study abroad options

union campus engineering

Union College is known for its interdisciplinary studies and study abroad programs. To emphasize creativity in its engineering programs, Union supports STEAM (with arts). During my visit there, I was most impressed with the high rate of graduation for women in the sciences and engineering. Union has a rather unique program in Siberian Russia which combines Russian studies and environmental studies. Building on a strong sense of community, all faculty, staff, and students are assigned to a “house” which is a space for them with seminar room, programming and community. (Upperclassmen can live in the house.)

Here are a few quick facts about Union College:
Union College

Acceptance: 38%

Freshmen from out of state: 75%

Most popular majors: economics, biology, psychology

Housing: Guaranteed housing freshman year

4-year Graduation rate: 80%

Academics:  “Union has outstanding academics.” says a freshman. Union operates on a trimester system, which means thrice-a-year exams and a late start to summer jobs—but also the opportunity to concentrate on just three courses a term. The common curriculum has modern language requirements and 5 writing across curriculum courses within the 7 distribution areas. Engineering majors must declare by the end of freshman year – bio-, mechanical, electrical, or computer. Union also provides wonderful opportunities for students to study abroad. One program allows students to study for a term in Siberia, Russia, delving into Russian and environmental studies. The professors here at Union are simply wonderful.” says another student. Students can expect to see full professors at the lecterns rather than TAs. 

Social:  “The majority of social life is on campus,” says a student. Campus events also include comedians, concerts, and speakers. What Schenectady lacks can be found in Saratoga Springs, which boasts restaurants, jazz clubs, horse racing, and Skidmore College, or in the nearby Adirondacks and Catskills. Popular road trips include Boston, Montreal, New York, and the ski slopes of nearby Vermont. Union’s athletic teams compete in Division III, aside from men’s and women’s ice hockey, both of which are Division I. 

Financial: Although the tuition and fees are approximately $62,274, Union College offers grants and need-based financial aid, with the average need-based scholarship of $32,000. 100% of need is fully met, although the Union is need-aware. Union does not combine merit and need-based aid.

What do you think about this college? What else would you like to learn about it? Please post your comments below.