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Does starting early help?

ultimomultimom 259 replies3 threads Junior Member
My son will start college this fall. My daughter will be a high school sophomore. We ended up feeling like we were catching up during the application process with my son. With a busy family it is difficult to schedule college visits and my kids go/went to a challenging high school where it is difficult to miss school. Our high school spring break is also the same as the majority of colleges. My daughter did not visit colleges at the same time as her older brother due to scheduling as well as travel costs. We are in Texas so getting out of state is a commitment.

*** I’d like to start a low key college visit schedule but I wonder if a more compressed schedule is just part of the process. ***

Daughter doesn’t yet have a major or concentration in mind. She’s been on college campuses for various events but hasn’t expressed a preference for a big or small school. I would be surprised is she would be interested in big college sports. She would like to play club Ultimate.

So, start visiting or hold off and start visiting later?
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Replies to: Does starting early help?

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10390 replies122 threads Senior Member
    We started visits sophomore year. Our plan was for D to get a sense of what types of schools she liked (she was also clueless about big vs small, urban vs rural, etc...). Our first five visits were a mix of all the above plus private vs public. She quickly realized that what she thought sounded good on paper was not what she really wanted and she was able to put together a good list from there. Summer between junior and senior year, she did a summer program and her top choice, to see if they were really her top choice, and made some repeat visits to sit in on classes and such. It worked for her. We visited 15 schools and she applied to 8 and I honestly can't imagine doing all of that junior year.

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  • bjkmombjkmom 7948 replies160 threads Senior Member
    My daughter is also a rising Junior. We're not doing a vacation this summer, so I think I may take her to see a few of the SUNY campuses that might be tricky during the school year.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30444 replies59 threads Senior Member
    If you can schedule and afford visits, do start now. They can be fun.

    Your DD might be new at this, but you’ve done this before with your son. Check out what you think might interest your DD. Maybe hit some schools that you didn’t have time to visit. You can start out all about you and shape things as she develops opinions and expresses preferences
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2548 replies61 threads Senior Member
    I started developing a preliminary list fall of my kid's sophomore year, based on my best guess of who she would turn out to be and some rough guidelines from her. Her school had a sophomore visit day in March at the local LAC-like small private university, which happened to be one of the schools on the list. In April, we took a family trip to another, similar, school from the list, which coincided with the school's Open House for prospects. She'd also been on the campus of a couple of public universities for various school activities. At that point, she was able to come up with additional criteria: ethnic diversity was more important than she'd anticipated; she thought she liked a campus more integrated with a city but turned out to prefer more of a bubble; being around people who were drinking and/or smoking bothered her more than she thought it would. The list was reworked.

    Fall break of her junior year, she visited two women's colleges and came back from that visit with a short list of four (three from my original list, plus a fourth that would not have been a good fit for her as a sophomore but which looks fine for her as a rising senior) of varying selectivity, plus a mom-pick EA safety, and that's still her list 8 months later, through multiple changes of anticipated major.

    She plans to do an overnight and a full day of classes at at least her top two schools. The mom-pick safety does not offer overnights, or she'd do one there. The tour and info session really don't provide any information she finds useful; she cares enormously about residential life and classroom experience.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35411 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Both girls occasionally saw a college, in middle school or early hs, when DH needed to be there. But the first official stops were Harvard (again, he needed to be there,) which completely turned her off to the prestige element, the attitude of other visiting kids. That same day, BU. At that instant, she knew she didn't want too big.

    Neither was truly on her list, but the visits refined her own understanding of her prefs.

    One advice I always give, is not to visit schools too early that she could fall in love with, that will color all her other visits. Eg, I thought long and hard before taking her to see UVa, early in the process.

    Yes, we always included some fun. Low pressure.
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  • compmomcompmom 11861 replies82 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    We started winter/spring of junior year. We went to an area that had a big state U., small liberal arts (Little Ivy), and an alternative type college. None of them applied to any of these but it was clarifying.

    ps our Harvard tour was fantastic, very relaxed....so the particular crowd and tour person can make a big difference, which it shouldn't actually but.... :)
    edited June 2019
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6711 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Since the biggest benefit of a visit is imagining yourself there, I think you are too early in the process. You are asking her to project herself 3 years ahead!

    I'd plan on a junior spring break for visits.

    There is a lot you can do online in terms of investigating programs. You may be able to accelerate some testing to the summer before junior year. I agree that it can feel rushed and compressed. But there also something to be said for making high school as much about high school and as little about a long post-college process as possible.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10989 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    We started summer after soph year with my eldest. IMO, it was a waste of time for the most part. She ended up revisiting a few of the summer visit schools when kids were back on campus. We visited far too many reaches. With my second, we started in fall of junior year, did far fewer visits and only went when kids were on campus. He flew to visit one college after he was accepted because he was serious about it, and did an overnight at another after acceptance.

    The way we did things with my second was far better than with my first. I don’t necessarily think starting early is helpful. They change their minds right up until application time. I also think visiting only reach schools is a mistake. It’s a bit like a wedding—the more time you have to plan, the more you’re going to spend (in terms of time and money on visits.)

    So my advice is, if possible:
    -Visit in junior year, when they might have some idea of what they are interested in.
    -Visit when kids are on campus.
    -Discuss the college with your kid before planning a visit. Make sure your kid is really interested in the school. Get a Fiske guide or similar, and come up with a viable early list based on reality.
    -Start local with a couple, if possible. Just to get an idea.
    -Parents’ choice is a good idea, if time and money allows. Both of my kids seriously considered my parent choice schools. If nothing else, seeing schools they don’t like is almost as helpful as seeing ones they do like.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3497 replies80 threads Senior Member
    We started touring colleges when DD was a rising freshman. Somewhat surprisingly, she has never been the only freshman on any of the tours. She rolled her eyes when I suggested the first visit (an out of state university we would not ordinarily have the opportunity to see but we were flying in for a family event taking place that weekend), but she humored me. It turned out to be an enjoyable day for all of us, and we've done a handful more tours since. We only visit one college on any given day, so we can have a leisurely lunch on or near campus, take a tour and have time to chat with a random student or two. We all benefit from the fresh air and exercise we get while admiring the architecture and scenery too. DD enjoys taking pictures, and we encourage her to do that.

    You know your kid best, so do what works for you. Freshman and sophomore college visits may not be timing-wise appropriate for every student, but it has worked out just fine for our family. Our slow pace has me spoiled for sure. Honestly, the junior year week-long spring break tour visiting two or three campuses a day sounds awful to me. It may be more efficient, but it would be overwhelming to us and DD.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 2719 replies14 threads Senior Member
    We did a compressed junior year spring break (on the opposite coast) visiting 2 colleges a day for 5 days solid M-F and one on the Saturday, and fitting in an informative lunch with a friend of mine who is on an Ivy adcom. Yes, it was tiring, but it was the only thing that made sense for a bunch of colleges all relatively close to each other but very far from us, and it was also enough for D19 to get a very clear idea of what she wanted (and what she didn’t want) and why. She didn’t want to tour any local schools after that as she figured if she ended up looking at safeties she’d probably have a couple to choose from, and would be better comparing them to each other than to her dream and match schools.
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  • chaphillmomchaphillmom 121 replies12 threads Junior Member
    I may be a bit of an outlier here. DS is a rising senior. It took him a while to even warm up to the concept of visiting schools...just wasn't on his radar. I chose not to push too hard. He has only really seen about 4 schools over the last 18 months, and he liked every one of them for different reasons. I think he will be one of those kids that will just be pretty content wherever he ends up. The one thing he said he doesn't want is an urban campus, but his number one choice is on an urban campus! Anyway- long winded way of saying to not push too hard until your kiddo is interested and ready.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35411 replies399 threads Senior Member
    It does depend on the kid. D1 never minded going along and later was quite open-minded. D2 was only in it for the road trip and lunch.

    One issue with waiting too long to start is the pressure on the kid increases. Sometimes, you go into the office and there are scores of kids waiting, an unnerving hustle and bustle.

    We began by just saying, "Let's go look at..." No pressure, no expecting a big reaction, yay or nay, from the visit. We quckly learned D1 wanted to see the libraries, the number of kids studying there. She didn't care for full tours (like what the labs looked like.) She was a sort of "seen one dorm, seen them all" type.

    But you learn these things about your kid by being on campus.

    And too many visits in one short period can turn all their impressions into oatmeal.
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 228 replies7 threads Junior Member
    We are another one who is just starting now with a rising senior. We made the mistake of doing one college tour when he was still a sophomore and he hated it, wasn’t engaged, etc. It was way too early for him. So we backed right off and did nothing but create a preliminary list in his junior year. Now we are doing some visits this summer and will do any further away ones after acceptances if he’s really interested.
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  • cypresspatcypresspat 628 replies11 threads Member
    My D20 saw his first college campus when he was 6 when we brought his older brother for freshman year. We live one mile from another college campus, and both of his parents are adjunct at a local university. AND he has been to at least 50 college campuses in his hockey career for games, tournies, showcases, etc. So when it was time for him to look at schools on his behalf, he had zero interest in the campus grounds anywhere we went. He focused 100% on the curriculum and scholastic facilities (labs). Point is because a college campus is nothing special to him, and he had seen some gorgeous ones and some not gorgeous ones, he just didn’t care about what most people go to see a campus for. He actually could get the info he wants via Skype, but colleges want you to visit because they know that visitation is the only way most kids get attached to any given school. So, we visit. Always built around something fun, though.
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  • ultimomultimom 259 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Okay, it sounds like we could take advantage of visit opportunities as they arise sophomore year. This would at minimum include a visit to her brother’s college. She isn’t ready for targeted visits. Then, some junior year visits to get a feel for what size school and size community feels right for her. Many colleges and universities visit her high school so she can take advantage of some of those opportunities.

    I like the idea of including a parent choice application, especially for a safety or reach.

    Other Goals for Round 2:
    1. Do better at targeting merit aid
    2. Do better at determine which early/rolling application deadlines to meet
    3. Test out ACT earlier in the process. My son did equally well on both but I suspect my daughter will have an edge on the ACT
    4. Take SAT subject tests
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  • calmomcalmom 20896 replies168 threads Senior Member
    My kids didn't do visits until their senior year -- my son figured he'd visit in the spring after he got admitted and was narrowing down his list, and had better info about financial aid (why bother visiting a school he couldn't afford anyway?) He knew he wanted a small LAC, but I think had something of an any-LAC-will-do mindset.

    My daughter wanted to be on campus when school was in session. Plus I think she wanted an excuse to fly out to visit her boyfriend who had already started college on the east coast

    Worked fine for us. I certainly understand why many families prefer an earlier start as well as making the college visits a family thing (rather than the kid-visits, mom-stays-home protocol I followed) -- but the point is that the visits aren't an absolute necessity. Plenty of info & videos available from online sources. So focus on what you want to do, not on what you think you "should" be doing.
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  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 4184 replies92 threads Senior Member
    We traveled around the country a lot with my kid’s chess tournaments so he got to see quite a few campuses along the way. But outside of Vandy and maybe GTech, he never really enjoyed any campus trip. But he was younger back then.

    I would say that visiting between 10th and 11th grade is a good time to go, if only to get the motivation juices flowing and to see what is out there.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78480 replies3537 threads Senior Member

    We started with low key college visits with our kids as 10th graders...actually did some visits summer before 10th grade. These were done in concert with family vacations, and often to visit relatives or friends. If there was a college nearby, we went to visit. It gave our kids a flavor of the various types of colleges. By 11th grade, we were actually scheduling vacations to places that had colleges of interest nearby. For example, we visited relatives in CA and also visited a handful of colleges (one was where DD did attend). We visited friends one summer and went on 7 college tours as part of a 10 day trip where we visited friends and relatives. Kid’s second choice was from that trip.

    The nice thing was...our trips weren’t just running from college to college...they also were sightseeing and visiting others...which made it less like a college hunt.

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  • ultimomultimom 259 replies3 threads Junior Member
    @cptofthehouse , Staying in Texas is an option. I was just noting that it takes a long road trip or airline tickets to visit schools outside of Texas. We are in Austin so she is familiar with the U of Texas campus. Southwestern and Trinity are not that far. Either is Rice but Rice is extremely hard to get into. U of Texas Austin auto admission for now the top 6% makes is unlikely my daughter would get in since she goes to a very competitive high school.

    At this point she hasn’t narrowed it down to a field of study and I certainly don’t want to push that this early I. High school.
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