Having just survived a week-long college tour, iron woman division, here are a few things I wish I’d known before my daughter and I traveled to California to tour 7 schools in 4 days.
- Create the itinerary together
- Have a plan for remembering each school (there is a LOT to see and recall later)
- Schedule campus tours and then schedule fun breaks
- Upgrade SOMETHING (dinner, hotel, car, spa)
- Eat healthy
- Let teen do the talking during tours (including check-in at every school)
- The best information comes from current students so talk to them
- Take pictures TOGETHER (even if she complains)
- Have an excellent GPS app and let teen navigate
- Give her time to unwind at the end of the day (read: SnapChat, text, etc.)
- End at the beach whenever possible
We followed the above tips as well as we could, from mapping out the schools she wanted to see (Tip 1) to taking breaks in Southern California, where a beach is always nearby (Tip 11). Otherwise you can go a little crazy.
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Here’s a little more info on how we spent our time:
Figure out parking ahead of time. Visitor parking was just the worst. Some schools offer a parking permit online so ask ahead of time. Then call and get solid parking instructions before you arrive on campus. Otherwise you will have to waste time figuring out what a student means by “over there” when you ask for directions.
The school presentations are basically all the same:
- A pitch about how great the school is
- Successful alums
- Student activities
- Housing basics
- The application process.
However, we always picked up information we missed online and the tours give your student time to get a feel for the personality of the campus. That said, do not stress out if you are a bit late. As long as you make the tour, you can get the information you need.
School spirit was important for my daughter and she took note of schools with students who sported their school colors. She also took pictures of dorm rooms, buildings, food courts and other things that interested her on each tour so she could go back and review.
Driving a bland rental car? Not for us. We cruised in what we called our Little Drop of Sunshine: a lemon yellow Chrysler FIAT 500L with BEATS speakers, moonroof with shade screen, comfy leather seats, and plenty of space for our luggage and souvenirs. An unexpected biggest benefit to driving the Fiat 500L on this trip: the ability to make U-turns and park in cramped spots on campuses.
End at the Beach
We stayed in a hotel overlooking the ocean. At the Sheraton Carlsbad, we got to enjoy the newly remodeled Twenty/20 restaurant and the Ocean Pearl Spa. The Sheraton Carlsbad is about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, and the area’s colleges but staying there felt like a break. The hotel is perched on a hill overlooking the water so you are guaranteed memorable sunsets.
We also stayed at the budget friendly Hampton Inn Hermosa, a mile from the beach and The Strand where we could bike ride, sun bathe and eat at restaurants on the beach
Disclosure: We were guests of the Sheraton Carlsbad and Hampton Inn; opinions expressed are my own