Holiday Advice for Parents and High School Students

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By Dale Price, MBA

Founder, Access College America

The holidays are officially here and families all over Charlotte are making plans for a very merry time together. Now that high school students will be out for winter break, holiday travel is the topic at every dinner table. But one topic most overlooked during the holidays is college planning, a topic that dead ends once the bell rings, books close and the school doors open for winter break. But the holiday break provides hidden opportunities to squeeze in a quick college visit while on that annual family road trip. Simply taking the time to visit a campus over the break offers a plethora of benefits. We decided to share just a few of these benefits while your family plans your winter retreat. Here are Access College America’s top four reasons for visiting a college over the holidays:

  • Campus Vibe

Learning about a university by visiting a website is a completely different experience than walking through the courtyards, meeting with students and staff.  It leaves nothing to the imagination. Many universities also offer holiday events or activities, this is really a great time to explore the sights and sounds of colleges during a very festive time. We recommend our clients participate in one of the school’s holiday traditions and walk thru the seasonal pop up shops that can be charming in the community. Explore and discover the possibilities during the most wonderful time of the year.

  • Opportunity to Meet Admissions

Here is a chance to make an exceptional first impression. Keep it professional, and all interactions should be conducted with good manners. Students should also stay off their cell phones too. We recommend making a list of questions for the Admissions Staff in advance. Good questions include those about academics, financial aid, and on campus housing. Ask the Admissions Officer about the types of students they are recruiting as well. Also, these early interactions create a relationship between the prospective student and the Admissions Staff.  That is always a big plus in a competitive stack of applications.  

  • This isn’t the school your mom or dad went too

Parents often encourage their child to attend the college they graduated from for the obvious reasons. But times change, and universities evolve. What was once a small, conservative school, has now developed over time and grown to be massive in class size with a diverse curriculum and student body. By visiting a campus over the break, students see the present day campus. That can be totally different than reliving the college days from a parent’s nostalgia.

  • Your Personal Essay Will Shine

This is where the college visit has a real return on investment. Admissions committees wants to know every applicant who applies for their program is deliberate, thoughtful, and shares a mutual enthusiasm to live and study there. Writing the personal essay is an opportunity to really convey that sense of belonging to the reviewer. We advise our clients to always include something they learned about the campus visit when writing their personal essay.  Perhaps an area of research, or even just a fun fact about the school and how it relates to the student’s life. That is a relatable moment with the reviewer, it also showcases the prospective student’s diligence in the college search process. By using the college visit as a backdrop in the personal essay, it can lead to greater chances for acceptance, but it should be done with a meaningful experience from the visit.

Visiting a college over the holidays is easy! Tour schedules and sign-ups are located on every website. Both student and parents are always encouraged to stop by too. Plus parents should be a guiding force on their child’s path to discovering the right college fit. Using down time during the holidays to visit one or two colleges is a winning strategy for college planning. Good luck, and Merry Christmas from Access College America!

Dale Price, MBA is a college admissions expert and Founder of Access College America LLC, a nationally recognized educational consulting agency based in Charlotte, North Carolina. His college consulting practice assists parents with high school kids find the right college fit through self-discovery. He has an MBA from the University of Redlands and Bachelors of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. To learn more about Access College America, visit, or via email Search @AccessCollegeAmerica on Facebook for tips and admissions strategies.

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