Are you considering making a few stops at colleges during your next vacation and wondering what to do with the younger ones? Make it a family affair and everyone will benefit! There is nothing like actually walking around a campus and talking to a handful of people to help a student determine whether this could be his new home-away-from-home. Little things like how the students are dressed, what the food is like, or what kind of atmosphere prevails can make all the difference in knowing if you feel comfortable in a specific college setting. The college visit is a good idea, but what about the younger children? Will they be an embarrassment to my teen? And what are we supposed to do with them for the day?
First, it’s never too early to start College Awareness. First grade, second grade—why not? Your younger child will most likely feel more comfortable with big sis or bro moving on to college if he understands where his sibling will live, and feel a part of the decision. So, make the college visit a part of the family vacation package and include siblings in the adventure! Ensure that the siblings understand that it is the teenager’s decision as to which college he or she attends, but that it is an important decision and you need their help. This doesn’t mean that little junior has to hang onto your college-bound student’s shirt-tails all through the visit. Give your teenager the independence he is comfortable with (he will be going to college without you, after all!). Use the old ‘Divide and Conquer Plan’ – with one parent going with younger children, and the other with the student; or if single parenting, take the little ones and allow your teenager to ‘go it alone’ on the campus tour. Get together at the end of the visit and compare notes!
Here are some ideas for activities to keep everyone else in the family involved and happy while your future college student does her school evaluation:
Make a list of things for the youngsters to find and give them a camera to take pictures.
Look for a book in the library that starts with the first letter of your first name
Find a picture of the school mascot and take a picture
Count how many kinds of chocolate candy bars are for sale in the school
Eat Your Way Around Campus
Food is a key criterion for campus selection. Enroll the help of the youngsters on this one! Plan to reach your college destination on an empty stomach and check out the dining hall, coffee shop, and snack bars. Besides determining the quality of the food, these are easy places to find students and faculty. Pay attention— look around and attempt to get a feel for the student body. Ask your little ones for their opinions — sometimes they are more astute at judging character than the rest of us!
Map it out!
Get a copy of the campus map from the Admissions Office (or download one off the internet before you arrive). Ask your youngster to find where the dorms are, the gymnasium, and cafeteria. Take a picture at each destination; this will help your older student compare campuses later on.
When you get back in the car to hit Disneyland, another college (for the die-hards), or Grandma’s house, allow each child an opportunity to report his or her findings to the college-bound student. Who knows, your campus visit may end up being the highlight of the vacation!
The author, Lynette Mathews is freelance writer and member of the National Educators Writers Association. She is the director of The College Planning Center, a resource for students and parents. © 2016