We think the best time to visit your child at school is in early October for several reasons. Midterms usually aren’t until the middle of the month so they won’t be too busy cramming yet and, if your child attends college in the Northeast, Midwest or Pacific Northwest the cooler temperatures will call for some more weather-appropriate clothes and shoes. Pack these items – as well as extra school supplies, food items only available near your home and a surprise or two – and swap them with the objects your child won’t need until they come home for break to limit the amount of clutter in their living space; if you’re traveling by plane, train or bus, pack lighter than you would than if traveling by car and offer instead to take your child shopping at the local grocery store or shopping mall to pick up anything else they may require.
As for what to do while you’re there, that’s up to you and your child. Are you foodies? Try out a few different restaurants (and ask if they offer take out). Are you outdoorsy? Find some nearby hiking or biking trails. Are you artsy? Take in a performance put on by the drama department. Are you just in need of some parent-child time? Do any of the above, or simply grab some coffee and walk around campus talking about what you’ve both been up to since you last saw each other. Your child may be eager to discuss their classes, get your opinion on whether or not they should join the Greek system or vent about issues they are having with their roommate. Campus visits don’t need to be non-stop excitement…the important thing is that you and your child are able to reconnect with one another.
Finally, how long should your visit be? Well, if you’re coming from a considerable distance away, arriving on Friday night and leaving at some point on Sunday makes perfect sense (just don’t think about crashing on your child’s dorm room floor or futon!) but for those who live closer, getting there on a Saturday or Sunday morning and returning home that same evening is most common and the best utilization of time. Whatever your choice, be sure to let your child in on the plans before they are set in stone and keep them updated on any changes to your itinerary. And remember, they have a life of their own now, too, so don’t be surprised or offended if they need to alter their plans with you to deal with something school-related.
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