Welcome, parents of prospective college students! You and your child are about to become overwhelmed in even more debt and stress, aren’t you excited?!
As your child reaches upper-classman status, the looming experience of embarking on college tours nears. I am on my third round of college tours — as my third-oldest is now a Senior in high school — so I have plenty of experience doing these frigging things.
If you’re about to have your first college student in the family, you may find the tours informative and exciting. If you’ve already done one (or more, like me), than you know that a college tour is basically sitting through a timeshare presentation that costs about six times more. It feels like you’re sitting in a car dealership, being shown all the bells and whistles on a car that you’re about to spend $120,000 on a 4-year lease for, and there’s no guarantee that at the end of the lease your child won’t be working as a cashier at Walmart.
So, as you embark on the college tour process, here are some tips and tricks to make the entire process more enjoyable:
I WANNA ROCK
The biggest question you have to ask your child is, “What do you want to do with your life?” Of course, no one in high school actually knows what they want to do, but they might have a general idea of what they’d like to be when they grow up.
Since Jeffrey Bezos is already Jeffrey Bezos, they can’t be him so they will have to pick something else. This is called their “Major,” which determines what they will study in college. This is the first step in figuring out which colleges to tour, since not every university will offer a Bachelor Degree program in “Vape Store Management.”
Should I Stay or Should I Go Now
Once your child determines his or her major, you can now search Google for schools that offer that major. Since there are roughly 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States, your prospective Freshman will need to figure out if he wants to stay close to home, or move the hell away.
If your child says, “I want to go to a college on the other side of the country,” this is a clear indication of his need for independence and/or evidence of the terrible job you’ve done at parenting, and your kid cannot wait to get the hell away from you.
My kids all have decided to stay close to home, which kind of sucks because we were really looking forward to permanently turning their bedrooms into craft breweries.
Sort: Price High to Low
Once there is a determination of what they want to study and where, you can do Google searches like:
- Colleges near me
- Colleges vape store major
- Cheap colleges
- Free colleges
College is expensive. You will find this out when you get the search results and realize that the average tuition per semester is actually more than your house is worth. I suggest searching something like:
- colleges near me vape major tuition per semester
Results like that will allow you to then sort the results by tuition, which you can then use to steer your child towards the cheaper, shittier schools because — let’s face it — a physics class is the same at Yale as it is at Bunker Hill Community College.
Schedule Your Tours
Once you’ve sat down with your child using the results from your search, you can then go onto each school’s website and look for tours or Open Houses. You can then try to register for them, only to realize that all of the good days and time slots are booked, resulting in all of your college tours starting at 4 AM on a Wednesday.
Be Super Annoying
As you waltz around the campus on your tour, being guided by another student who is only doing this for their work-study program, you may find your mind wandering. Your daughter will be checking out the soccer team that’s practicing, while you’re busy wondering where the laundry machines are.
It’s pretty clear that your kid is trying to picture himself living on campus, making out with at least 18 of the girls that just walked by, and not paying attention to anything else, so this is a good opportunity to snap things back into focus by asking questions.
Your child will hate you for this, but at least it’s entertaining. I suggest asking some of the following items:
What is your drinking policy on campus, and does it apply to parents on college tours?
Ask multiple questions about the library, but pronounce it “liberry,” every time.
My child only eats chicken nuggets, is there a nugget-only meal plan?
Can Freshman have a car on campus and, if so, do you have any of those breathalyzer start-inhibitor things?
Don’t Ask About Financial Aid
College tours will always tell you where the Financial Aid office is, as they assume you will want to go in and find out how much all of this will end up costing. This is a waste of time and here’s why:
- The college will always have tuition and housing rates on their website.
- The amount of Federal Financial Aid you get will be almost nothing because the government doesn’t want you to have any money, so they make you claim the $5 that you won on a scratch ticket last year and now you make too much to qualify. Assume you will be paying close to the full tuition cost.
- Remember that even if the college offers additional incentives for Freshman in the form of grants like, “Resident Freshman Grant,” “New Student Grant,” “Red-Haired Freshman Grant,” that 99% of these incentives are only good for Freshman year. That means that with all these grants and incentives to get you in the door that first year are gone when your kid becomes a sophomore and now you are sooooo f**ked.
Ask About the Cheapest Housing and Dining Options
My kids all got the mid-ranged dining options at college. We didn’t realize how stupid this was until our second college student hit his Sophomore year.
We changed his plan to the “Malnutrition Plan,” which was the cheapest one they had. We did this because (1) it turns out that the dining hall food all actually sucks even though the website says “Award Winning Cuisine,” (2) your kids will hate eating at dining halls because of the first point and (3) kids will figure out how to get food on their own, somehow. Plus, when you moved your child in you sent them a years worth of goldfish crackers, cookies, and other crap that they have learned to subsist on for two months, somehow.
Also ask about housing. Some schools offer triple dorms which means they put three kids into a room meant for two people. This is the cheapest option, by far. They may not like being squished in with two other people but remind them that they are there to learn and socialize, and personal space is overrated when you’re paying $28,000 a year to study Liberal Arts.
Enjoy the Experience
College tours can be fun. They help your kid whittle down where she will begin her independence, future, and 20 years of bone-crushing debt. They will also give you the chance to spend time with your child before she embarks on this new, life-changing adventure.
Just before you change her room into a craft brewery.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash