What to Bring on a College Tour

 

This past spring break we began touring schools for our middle son. We walked the campuses, listened to counselor presentations, sampled the food, and bought the t-shirts for 3 Southern California colleges in 26 hours. The weather was amazing and the ocean was beautiful. The college kids giving the tours were engaging and successfully sold each of their schools as the only choice for anyone wishing to succeed in life.

Now that I am a seasoned college tour parent I feel I can give advice about what to bring on these tours.

Sensible, non-brand-new shoes or BAND-AIDS:

My son’s and my heels were raw after walking miles through 3 college campuses and all around the Santa Monica shopping and restaurant district in our brand new, appropriate-for-less-walking loafers.

You will see a variety of clothing and footwear options on these tours. Do not follow the example of most of these people. In every group, there will be at least one prospective female student dressed for a date in an adorable outfit and heels. She is usually with her mother, who is also well dressed, but in slightly more sensible footwear. Others seemed dressed in what is appropriate for their home state. One mother from New York was wearing corduroy pants and boots on a 78-degree day in California. I started sweating looking at her.

Your camera or smartphone camera

Most campuses have at least one location that makes it truly unique and photo-worthy.

Views of the Pacific Ocean from the Pepperdine campus in Malibu make great backdrops for Christmas card-worthy family photos and USC is the only place you will be able to get a picture of your kids touching OJ Simpson’s Heisman Trophy. (While we did not tour Baylor on this trip, don’t forget pictures of your future college student with the live bears that live on campus if you are in Waco, TX.)

A working writing utensil

Those counselor lectures fly by and contain a huge amount of detail. Jotting a few notes can save hours searching through the website later for the information.

A sense of humor and adventure

The search for the “perfect” school for each kiddo can be stressful. My husband and I successfully navigated through Los Angeles without completely losing our minds, but getting to USC required about 6 trips around the block to get into the correct turn-lane for the college entrance and my husband and son had to jump as I briefly slowed the car in a construction zone on the UCLA campus to be on time for that tour. Even if it is your alma mater, the streets and parking will not be exactly like they were 25 years ago when you attended school there.

Yes, it's really happening. Your child is going to attend one of the schools you traipse through following a college student walking backwards. May as well get on board, be prepared, and have fun on the ride.

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