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Having a Productive and Safe Overnight College Visit

Many families try to incorporate college visits into summer family vacations. While you can't see the campus in full swing with students, professors and admissions staff may have more time to answer questions. It's also easier to book a hotel and find a parking spot. (For more on getting the most of a summer college visit, see this post.)

Often, high school students want to spend the night to get a real taste of campus life. It's best to arrange it through an admissions office. That way you know the student hosting has been screened by the college and will do his or her best to make it a good visit. (See What to Know Before an Overnight Stay.)

This is especially good advice in light of a recent survey by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) that revealed risky behavior on the part of high school students during college visits.

A survey of 1,070 U.S. teens from age 16 to 19 (270 of whom indicated they'd been on an overnight college-admissions visit) found that:

•16 percent reported drinking alcohol;

•17 percent had sex or engaged in intimate sexual behavior;

•5 percent used drugs other than alcohol; and

•2 percent drove while impaired while on their campus visit.

The center suggests some practical measures to make visits safer.

For parents: Accompany your teens on college visits and find accommodations at an off-campus hotel. Or, if they do have an overnight alone, talk with them first about expectations and making smart choices.

For teens: Be aware of the risky behaviors you might encounter during a college visit and think ahead about your possible reactions to different scenarios.

For colleges: Have clear, firm policies to protect students, visitors, and hosts. Communicate and enforce campus rules. Train hosts and have them sign social contracts about acceptable behaviors. To reduce the temptation: Invite prospective students for shorter visits.


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