School daze: college campus tours Tips: Before visiting, prospective students and their families can take a lesson from others who've been that route.

Taking the Kids

March 16, 1997|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

After visiting six college campuses in four days, high-school junior Shaen Robertshaw had reached his limit -- a full day and two campuses before the tour was scheduled to end.

"At that point, we gave up and drove home," said Shaen's mother, Susan Lewandowski. "When they've had enough, it's time to quit."

Lewandowski knows those glazed looks all too well. She's an admissions officer at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., where high school students and their families come from as far as California and abroad to see the classic New England women's college and other campuses nearby.

"Try to make these trips fun," urges Lewandowski. "Look at it as a rite of passage that won't come around again."

This month the big college touring season kicks off, during high schools' spring break. It continues through the summer (though experts say its best to visit when school is in session) and the next school year.

Some families plan vacations around the campuses they want to see, using a private college-admission consultant or the Internet to help organize their itinerary.

(The National Association for College Admission Counseling has compiled a directory of Web resources for prospective students and their families. For a copy, send $5 with your name and address to NACAC, P.O. Box 1691, Alexandria, Va. 22313-1691. NACAC's Web site [http: //] also offers links to university Web pages around the country.)

Parents and experts advise that you:

Call far in advance to arrange meetings with faculty, students or even an overnight stay for your child in a dorm.

Arrange an admission interview, if possible.

Let your children ask their own questions.

Schedule no more than two campus visits in one day so there's enough time to get a sense of each place. Walk the campus, visit the library, talk to students.

"Parents are starting the process earlier and putting more into it, because the cost is so great. They're becoming smart consumers," observes Robert Rummerfield, who left his post as a Johns Hopkins University admissions officer to start College Visits. (Call [800] 944-2798 or visit the Web site at http: //

Lewandowski adds that snapping plenty of photos helps, as does planning for sufficient time to relax. Stretch the budget a bit to indulge yourself and your child with a really good meal, a round of golf or nice hotel.

"This should be a happy time, a very rich parent-child experience," says Janet Spencer, co-author of the newly revised "Princeton Review Student Advantage Guide to Visiting College Campuses" (Random House, $20). This guide suggests local attractions and places to stay near the country's 250 most-visited campuses as well as directions to the admissions office.

But for some families, these trips will still be fraught with confusion, exhaustion, tension andterror (How will I afford it if he gets accepted? Will she be safe on this campus?). Some parents complain they don't have the time or money to travel from campus to campus when students are applying to upward of 10 schools.

Admissions experts counter that they wouldn't buy a car without seeing it, and college is a much larger and more important investment.

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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