Well the adventures have begun as we just finished up our short Texas college road trip, where we visited Rice and SMU. Tomorrow, my 2 teen boys and I are headed on a 10 day road trip to North Carolina, with our final destination in PA. We have a hectic schedule and will manage to fit in some sightseeing and a lot of schools along the way.

I’ve learned a lot so far as I am truly pulling hairs out one by one  during this process. This has truly become a part-time job as my son only wants schools out of state and has a certain major and criteria for a school in mind. I am by no means an expert at this point as this is my first child to go through this. But, I have personally have gone through college shopping twice before, for myself. Seriously, if your kid has a clue about what they want BEFORE the summer of their junior year – please start then! Some colleges start accepting applications in August which makes early decision, that last ACT or SAT and visiting schools while in school, a bit of an extra challenge.

Nevertheless, we are wading are way through this and learning as we go. Thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned thus far.

1. No matter how great your kid is, there is a pretty good chance that you will have to be the squeaky wheel to make sure things are done correctly. Make your little genius sit with you as you research schools online and map out a plan (no matter how painful that is).

2. Visiting a campus in the summer can give you a glimpse of the school, but in no way do you get the true feeling for it.

3. Everyone you come in contact from admissions counselors to the student tour guides have a job – they are there to sell sell sell. Take that information with a grain of salt.

4. Organization to maximize a visit is imperative. If  you plan to take the tour and attend the info session,  work that around visiting with a professor in an area of study.

5. Look, listen and ask random students on campus what they like and dislike about the school.

6. Big Future is your friend as is  US News and Princeton Review. There are other ones out there too. Love to hear what you are using.

7. Give your child a notebook and make them take notes during the visit AND immediately after it.

8. I’m doing what a friend said and am not letting price get in the way of shopping. She said colleges that are more expensive, often offer more aid and she is right:) So for now, we are entertaining everything. We will deal with aid and scholarships and see where the cards lie, before making our final decision.

9. Realize that no college visits are a waste as they might go back to one of these for higher learning.

10. If they love a school or are interested in one they have not visited , have them look for other visit opportunities at another time. I remember going up and staying overnight in a dorm at University of Vermont. I did not attend there, but the visit was most memorable. This way they can go to real classes and truly see if this is a good fit.

Colleges are truly not a “one size fits all” thing. It will be interesting to see where my liberal arts minded son ends up. Even more interesting is that his brother is a tech kid and will probably want the exact opposite!

Good luck and your advice is welcome!