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College Tours: Parent Engagement Activity

June 18, 2014

By Mario Vela

A group of parents and teens participate in a college tour.

For the last four years, I have been working with high school students in several underserved communities on Chicago’s southside. I’ve seen many students affected by violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and poverty. I understand what these students are going through, as I grew up in a similar environment.

I often see students with an incredible amount of potential derailed by difficult circumstances. Many students tell me that their parents prevent them from better education options, like good financial aid packages at strong schools, because their parents don’t want them to move away. Every single time that I interact with students in these types of situations, the most impactful advice I provide is the most simple: take your parents to your preferred college or university.

Each time one of these students takes his or her parents to visit the college or university, the student returns amazed by how his or her parents become the school’s biggest advocate. The student also returns with a greater sense of conviction in his or her education and an improved focus on finishing high school.

For parents, I understand that there may be challenges to visiting colleges or universities outside of your area, but recognize these benefits:

  • These visits demonstrate that you are invested in your child’s educational success.
  • Your child gains a sense of motivation by becoming future-oriented in his or her educational possibilities.
  • You personally will become better informed of the culture of the university. What does the school value? Fraternities and sororities? Diversity? Sports?

If you are unable to visit a particular college or university, many schools offer virtual college fairs. While these fairs may not provide the full visitation experience, they should be able to answer your questions and address your concerns.

A few questions you might ask when you visit the school include:

  • Demographics. Does the diversity match your personal expectations?
  • Culture. What does the university value? Does this match your expectations? If your child is bilingual, does the school offer bilingual sessions?
  • Employment post-graduation. What is the employment rate of new graduates?
  • Crime rates. Some parents argue that they are nervous that something may happen to their child if he or she goes away to school. Take time to review the school and where your student may live.
  • Financial Aid options. Many colleges and universities have great financial aid packages to attract students. Let your child apply to several schools of interest, regardless of cost, since he or she may be eligible for a scholarship or strong financial aid package.
  • Prepare your child. Help your child prepare for success by asking questions concerning his or her interests, including academic programs, extracurricular activities, and clubs.

Your time and efforts are beneficial in helping you and your child make the most informed decision. Visiting a university campus will offer a glimpse into your child’s future and may provide a better understanding of the values of that school.

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