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College Tour Vibes

I can't believe my son is going to be applying to college in just a few short months. With that being said, we have been busy doing college tours to find just the right fit! We all want our kids to find the perfect fit and getting the right vibe on the college tour is essential.

My son and I out to dinner on a college tour.
My son and I out to dinner on a college tour.

The first college tours we did were over a two day period and we toured 5 schools! We left early one morning and drove 4+ hours to the first tour, hurried to the second tour, then stayed in a hotel halfway to the next day's tour. We got up early and quickly toured 3 more schools before driving back home. It was a whirlwind for sure. While we were able to take in each campus and see the amenities and things like that, it was so rushed you never got to stop and "feel the vibe" of the school and how you would fit into it. Not to mention we had a few annoying tour guides that were a huge distraction.

The one really good thing that emerged from this whirlwind tour was that my son knew he wanted a small school. Mom and dad's alma mater, NC State, was bigger than he wanted. That was super helpful in making a list of additional schools to go see.

The thing with small schools is that they are usually in a town setting. He liked that as well so I changed my approach with how we would go tour schools. While I knew my new approach would be more time consuming, I was certain it would help us more confidently find the right fit. And we have some strong contenders now before the application process starts.

So what was this new approach?

Before I scheduled the tours, I decided to do a little research on each town. Instead of just rolling in off the highway for a tour and staying at a chain hotel along the interstate, we wanted to get a feel for not just the school but the town. So I booked a room at the local inn that was walking distance to campus. I made a dinner reservation at a restaurant right in the middle of "college life." We got up in the morning and had coffee and breakfast at the local spot as well before walking to campus for our tour.

You can't always "get the vibe" on a 2 hour campus tour. By slowing the tour process down we were able to experience the school rather than just seeing some classrooms, the dining hall, and a dorm room. Walking the town allowed us to gauge the personality of the area. Seeing the way students interacted getting morning coffee and studying at the coffee shop with friends told way more about the school than a tour ever could.

We have now toured multiple schools using this approach. It has taken some schools that we thought were near the top of the list and bumped them down while also taking some we thought would be a maybe to the top of the list. All because my son was able to gauge how he would fit in there and if he felt it was the right place for him. Where our kids choose to go to college is a huge decision. It greatly impacts their life and the trajectory of their future. Finding the place they will thrive is essential!

Plus, another huge perk of this approach is that it turned college tours into quality family time. Vacation like time. We have had some fun road trips and cool evenings at rooftop airport restaurants.

If you are having trouble finding the right fit, slow down the tour process and soak in the experience the school has to offer.


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