How can we help our students feel more comfortable, less anxious and more excited to attend college fairs, open houses and virtual visits? Read below to find out how to help your student enjoy the campus visit experience with 2 easy tips!
WHY DOES MY STUDENT FEEL ANXIOUS?
It can be overwhelming for students to attend a college fair or open house for many reasons.
First, anything related to college or higher education is foreign to high school students. They have spent the last 10 years in the K-12 school system and by junior and senior year are finally becoming familiar with academic routines and expectations. "College" is a completely new ball game. Just the idea of going to an unfamiliar campus, with new teachers, new peers, and new routines and systems can cause anxiety. These heightened emotions can prevent your student from really listening and enjoying the experience visiting a new campus.
Second, students don't know what they will be asked to 'do' at a college open house, visit or tour.
The idea of attending an event where the expectations or responsibilities are unknown can make anyone nervous!
Lastly, after two years of isolation and virtual learning due to covid some students feel shy or anxious about meeting new people (whether in-person or on the screen). I've noticed this trend in almost all the students that I work with - anxiety around in-person gatherings is a very real phenomenon for teens.
2 RECOMMENDATIONS TO DECREASE ANXIETY
To help students think of college visits in a more manageable and less intimidating way, here are 2 strategies I recommend:
1. Identify just 1 or 2 goals for the visit
Proactively discussing goals or identifying a few questions that your student wants to have answered can help students focus during a campus visit. Rather than giving your student a list of questions to memorize or be responsible for asking during the tour, brainstorm with your student just 1 or 2 question that they can listen for and/or ask the tour guide. Only having a few questions to ask creates a manageable and less stressful way for your student to approach a college visit. Mom or dad can hold the checklist of questions and/or email the Admissions office after the tour.
Students should be focusing on answering these questions "Do I see myself at this school?" "How does this campus make me feel?" Those intangibles can be very important to narrowing down your list of college choices. But those feelings will be interrupted by anxiety unless your student can relax and know they have one specific question to ask and then can relax.
College visits are important and are often the first "real" step toward applying to college.
Students share with me that they often think to themselves, "I need to learn everything about this college and make a decision that will affect the rest of my life". As adults, we know that college visits are only one step in the college search process, but your teen may not realize how long the road ahead is.
They may think that a college visit solidifies their college decision and this belief causes anxiety and pressure.
Here are a few conversation starters and smaller goals that may be helpful for your student to think about while on their campus visit:
"Let's find out what types of clubs they have on campus"
"Let's find out if college freshman can bring cars to campus."
"How many students are usually in the freshman class?"
Even though you, as the parent, may be attending the college event with more questions in mind, your student only needs 1 or 2 questions to help focus their anxiety and energy.
2. Explain that a college fair/visit gives YOUR STUDENT power
I like to talk to students about the power they hold when attending a college event. I frame the visit as a chance for colleges to try and convince students why they should attend their college. Students get to be 'the judge' and make the ultimate decision (along with their parents) about whether or not they would like to attend each college.
Feeling confident and in control can lessen student anxiety.
My biggest tip for overcoming campus visit anxiety (and, well, most college struggles in general) is to start simple in order to lessen anxiety and build confidence! Sharing the Transition to College Workbook is a great way to prepare your student for the college transition. Worksheets and real-world scenarios build your student's skills of time management, scheduling, communicating with professors, problem solving with a roommate, connecting to campus resources and much more!
Mention this blog post in an email to Jennifer Sullivan to receive 20% off AND a personalized, signed workbook mailed to your student!
If your student is feeling anxious about the college transition, or is uncertain about how to begin the college search process, please reach out. Our coaches are experts at building rapport with teens, guiding them to think about the type of college environment where they will be successful and supporting them every step of the way to and through college. A little support can make a big difference!
Contact Jennifer Sullivan at: firstname.lastname@example.org