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Six Tips for Visiting Colleges

Once your child has created a short list of college choices, it's time to visit the schools. Here are some pointers:

  • Go prepared to ask questions. A college interview is like a job interview -- students should review the catalog and related material and come prepared to discuss specifics. Remember to take notes: After the first few visits, campuses begin to look alike.

  • Know your role. Experts recommend that you accompany your child to the waiting room, but not to the interview.

  • Visit a variety of schools. Visits provide an opportunity to see how your children respond to different environments. Students have a great instinct for the schools that feel comfortable to them. If classes are in session, visit a few to help your child get a feel for student life.

  • Check out residential accommodations. What are living arrangements like? Are there single-sex and coed dorms? Are bathrooms coed? How many students live off campus, and what's the school's policy?

  • Investigate safety issues. According to Eve Brouwer of the National Safety Council, 270 colleges and universities are members of its Campus Safety Association. Ask specific questions, such as, "How does the school handle alcohol abuse?"

  • How about off-campus crime? Although colleges are not required to release crime statistics for the local area, ask how safe off-campus jogging or walking is. Take it as a danger sign if school officials show a reluctance to discuss these issues.
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