One great way to spend quality time as a family while inspiring your children is to get the family outdoors on a college road trip. Spring is a fantastic time of year as fresh plants begin to grow after a long winter and family are ready to get out and adventure. You might even take your kids back to your own alma mater.While high school seniors are anxiously waiting to hear back from their college applications, sophomores and juniors are just beginning the process of preparing for college. And even younger children might be thinking about what they want to do when they grow up.
With reputable universities all of the United States, and even out of the country, this spring might be the perfect time to take a few days or a couple of weeks to spend some quality time with your kids on a road trip to various universities.
Some teens have an idea of what school they’re interested in while others have absolutely no clue where to begin. Even for those who are dead set on one or two schools in particular, sit down with your teen and instead of looking at universities by name, start looking up universities by what they offer.
Apart from preparing for the SATs, ACTs, or the applications themselves, many teens need guidance when it comes to picking the right schools to apply to. Since it’s a good rule of thumb to apply to between six to ten universities, teens should experience some of the schools they are interested in order to determine if they will be a good fit.
Make a list of possible majors your teen is interested in, then seek out colleges from that point of reference. This helps pin point the right universities who offer degree programs in your children’s interests.
For example, a teen that is interested in nursing might want to check out South University Savannah while an engineer-minded teen will probably want to look at Stanford or MIT. This approach will also aid in scholarship searches because it will help you and your teen to find applicable scholarships for their interests and gifts.
Mapping out the trip
Although it makes sense to take a trip during the summer, many college campuses are fairly quiet with little activity during those months. If possible, try and plan the trip during a time where the school will be flooded with activity. This will give your family a chance to see what campus life looks like.
For many teens, visiting a school where they can see college students studying, hanging out, or doing dorm life can make a bigger impact on whether or not they can picture themselves attending the school. Additionally, for teens unsure if they even want to attend college, seeing college students in action can help foster excitement for higher education.
Even though a trip like this will be education related, make sure to also include some fun family activities along the way. Not only will this provide some relaxing vacation time, but it will also give your child a feel for the community around the college.
Check out the local areas near the school where most college students grab a cup of coffee or hang out. Explore the public transportation system. Find nearby hikes and national parks. Attend a pro football or baseball game. Get tickets for an on-campus sporting event.
Taking in the whole experience will help your teen to narrow down their decision to the schools they feel the most at home and comfortable at. Because many teens, even if they are looking forward to college, are anxious to leave home or attend school out of state, it is crucial they check out all sides to a university before attending the school. This will help them feel more at home after move in day and the start of their very first semester.
Experience campus life
Most universities have scheduled tours daily for parents and teens to explore the school, sit in on classroom discussions, or talk to current students. Tours are usually free, although many schools offer a paid package with discount dining dollars in order to try some of the on-campus cuisine.
Don’t be shy about asking questions. Prepare a list with your teen, and be sure to sit down with the guide or admissions counselor if you are curious about anything else.
Lastly, if possible, take a few minutes to explore the campus without a tour guide. The tour will show the important and main areas, but some of the lesser-known places on campus can show a teen a different side to school. If your son or daughter is interested in music, then find a practice room and let them feel what it is like. Or if he or she would like to play soccer, sneak out onto the field together.
College is a big adventure. Whether they know it now or not, your teen will need your help with the process. Enjoy this special time together hanging out on the road, helping them be successful in the future, and offering support and inspiration during this big decision process. And as an added bonus, have a ball as a family exploring some new places together.
Read more about exploring campus life
Jessica Socheski is a freelance writer who can be found on Twitter @JessicaSocheski. She is passionate about higher education and knows how to get the family outdoors on a college road trip.