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Tips for the Parents of Third Culture Kids Going on College Tours

So. You’re going to college. Oh wait, you aren’t. Your kid is. Except they aren’t a kid anymore. Oh dear. What on earth is happening to your life?! I mean, when did you get so old? I mean, this is awesome and right and you’re so excited for your kid. Right? Here are just a few suggestions for how to get the most out of your, ahem, their college tours.

Don’t talk to the tour guide. You aren’t cool and your jokes aren’t funny. And, your kid needs to step up. Now’s the time. Back off.

Don’t ask questions on the tour. You aren’t on tour. You are just the driver. And probably the pocketbook.

Tell your child ahead of time that you aren’t going to talk or ask questions. This is their tour. They need to own it and if they want to know something, they can ask.

Follow your student. Let them lead you to where they want to sit, what they want to see.

Enjoy it. Enjoy the long drives, the (possible) overnights in hotels, the dinners or lunches out together. Explore new cities together, listen to good music (by which I mean your music) on the road, or podcasts, or talk about college, or sit in comfortable silence. Enjoy watching your child as they envision themselves on a campus.

Ask insightful questions of your child after the tour.

Make eye contact with your child during the tour, especially at goofy moments, so you can create memories and have some inside jokes to share later. My kids and I shared some laughs about the thrilled ooohs and aaaahs people expressed over on-campus Starbucks and giggles about how people reacted to hearing the word, “Djibouti.” We also used those slight eye glances to communicate things like, “Do you want a handful of Swedish Fish from my pocket to get you through this rather dull presentation?” and, “Yes, please!”

Don’t be a dream crusher. Help your child make wise decisions, but also let them dream. The wide world is before them, they will come up against enough limitations eventually. Don’t be one of those limits, at least not now.

Bring snacks. I had a few packages of, yes, Swedish Fish, in my purse. Mostly for me, but also for my teens. The tours can be long, especially if you’re doing several in a row. (see #7)

Don’t be a paparazzi but do take a few, surreptitious photos, both to remember which campus is which but also for your own sake. These are precious moments and they, like every other moment with your teens ever since they were born is fleeting.

Talk about something other than college with your teen on the drives or over meals. They are tired of people asking.

Read Janneke Jellema’s essay in Finding Home for advice on transitioning to university as a TCK.

Pick up Marilyn Gardner’s book Passages Through Pakistan for your TCK.

Read The Global Nomad’s Guide to University, by Tina L. Quick

What other tips do you have parents of TCKs on college tours?

Tips for Third Culture Kids Going on College Tours

So. You’re going to college. Maybe. Eventually. Somewhere. Where? To study what? Why? Who knows, maybe you do but maybe you don’t. In any case, you might tour some schools before making your final decision. Here are just a few suggestions for how to make the most of the tours. (tomorrow I’ll post tips for your parents, so they won’t totally humiliate you – if you’re lucky).

Be engaged. Be curious, look around.

Look the tour guide in the eye.

Smile at their cheesy jokes.

Ask questions. Of the tour guide, not of your parent. Unless you are asking for Swedish Fish (because of course your mom brought a bag full and is trying to eat them on the sly).

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed about what you don’t know. People like to be helpful and they like to feel like they know something.

Tell people where you are from in whatever form you choose to. You can be your passport country, your host country, your boarding school country, the country in which your parents pay taxes…be from where you want to be from but then own that, be proud of it. If you say you are from Kenya or Djibouti, you are intrinsically interesting and stand out, even if people don’t know what a Djibouti is.

Don’t expect your parent to talk for you. You do it.

Walk confidently. Don’t shuffle around with your head down. Pay attention, look up, notice. (Trust me, I saw a LOT of kids shuffling).

Imagine you are on an interview, don’t be a bump on a log. This is a huge decision, be involved in it. Make a good impression. The tour guide has no say over your acceptance but this is good practice.

Same idea regarding what to wear. Dress comfortably, like blue jeans and a t-shirt and tennis shoes, but don’t wear ultra-short sport shorts or pajamas. I’m being serious.

Know what you are looking for or what you are not looking for, at least as much as possible. Does the food or the sports or the music or the research facilities or the dorms or the cost matter most to you?

Enjoy it. Be curious. Enjoy exploring new cities and meeting new people and dreaming about what you can do in these places. Enjoy the chance to pick your parents’ brain on the drives and over meals. Enjoy their (probably dorky) company, they love you and are proud of you.

Chat with the other students on the tour. See what people are like who are interested in the same school as you.

Listen to your gut. How do you feel about a school? Your parents will want you to be objective but they also want to know that a place feels right. Trust your intuition.

Read Janneke Jellema’s essay in Finding Home for advice on transitioning to university as a TCK.

Read Marilyn Gardner’s book Passages Through Pakistan, especially the last chapter, for help in handling the emotional side of this major transition.

Read The Global Nomad’s Guide to University, by Tina L. Quick

What other tips have you found useful on college tours?

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