The Spring Break College Tour: A Survival Guide

Rob Lazebnik:

March Madness is upon us, by which I mean the tradition of taking your high school junior on a manic tour of college campuses. I’ve done it twice now, so I feel that I have some perspective on how to survive it.

As the parent, you have much to offer on this exciting and emotional journey—paying for it and doing the driving. But this limited influence does give you leeway to help design the trip, and here is where you can begin your subtle campaign of influencing where your kid goes to college. Keep your designs sub rosa, because the minute you say, “I’d love to see you at UMass Amherst,” she’ll set her heart on Sarah Lawrence. That one little sentence can cost you $40,000.

You’re only going to have a week or so on the tour, so you’ll have to pick your schools carefully. Most likely your kid will have already assembled a wish list of colleges to see. Don’t feel hurt if those places are far away from you—that is only because she wants to be really far away from you.

First off, pick schools that are only one nonstop flight away. A kid who has to take multiple planes to get home will soon be saying, “Brandon’s family is close, so I’m going to spend Thanksgiving there instead and go crossbow hunting with him and his friends.”

As you plot out a Google GOOG -0.19% map of the schools you want to visit, use the opportunity to avoid colleges you feel aren’t a good “fit”—that is college counselor-ese for, “She doesn’t have a shot in hell of getting in.”