Going on a road trip to look at colleges with your teenager should be a fun, exciting experience. While the two of you may have different expectations for the trip, a little planning and plenty of clear communication can help both of you to get the most out of the adventure.
Carefully consider which colleges you want to visit. It can be overwhelming trying to decide where to go for college, but try to narrow it down and don’t simply tour every college within a few hours of home. It’s probably best only to tour colleges that your teen is seriously interested in. Moreover, if your finances and their grades make a college an impossibility, taking a tour there may be discouraging, causing more legitimate options to pale in comparison. You want your teen to be as excited as possible about colleges that are realistic choices.
Call the college ahead of time and ask to get a tour and meet with representatives from the college. Having them ready for you will assure that you will get as many of your questions answered as possible, and no one’s time will be wasted. You might also be able to have your teen stay in a dorm room with a responsible student to give him or her, a taste of the college life. This is a great way to show them what it’s like to live in a dorm. If you know about this ahead of time, you can make alternate arrangements for yourself and be sure that your teen has all the needed supplies for a night as a college student.
Leave Some Leisure Time
The best time for college road trips is during the summer, when there are fewer demands on your teen’s time. Because most colleges have summer classes, they will be able to see the college in action but won’t be overwhelmed by too many students all at once. If you have the time to spare as well as your teen, work time into your itinerary for non-school-related side trips such as notable landmarks or a famous shopping center. Ask your teen about places on your route that are of interest, and you can enjoy such sites together.
Get Ready for the Road
You’ll be spending a lot of time together on the road, so make sure that you can have fun in one another’s company. Pack plenty of snacks to munch on; hours of driving on an empty stomach can have a nasty habit of contributing to frayed nerves and cranky behavior. In addition to snacks, decide ahead of time on some music that both of you wouldn’t mind listening to. Music can make a long drive much more pleasant, but not if the songs themselves become a source of tension thanks to diverging tastes. You might also make a list of possible conversation topics and find some car games that you can play together, but don’t try to force either one. When your teen is ready to talk or otherwise interact, he or she will.
A college road trip is a terrific way for a parent and teen to bond. The two of you can have some fun together while you discuss the possibilities that lie ahead. Bring along a map or GPS to help you avoid getting lost, an itinerary for organization, and a camera to capture lasting memories. As long as the two of you respect each other and put a little effort into preparation, the journey should be one that you will both remember fondly for many years to come.
Katie Andersen is a career counselor and content contributer for thebestcolleges.org. Check out this year’s top 25 best online schools and all the latest news about the best colleges and universities.