Don’t confuse your summer vacations with college visits.

You’re planning out your summer–one of your last with your teen at home before college. So, naturally, you’re thinking of how to make this a memorable summer…while also using the time wisely, because you know you and your teen have a lot of work  to do in the coming months.

So maybe you’re thinking of multitasking. Maybe you’re thinking, “Let’s plan a big trip! We can take a vacation while knocking out some college visits.”

Maybe we can take a summer trip to Washington, D.C. While we’re there we can visit Georgetown, G.W.U., and American University! Or, why don’t we visit schools up and down the California coast this summer and make a vacation out of it? It will be so fun, and my son would love to go to college near a beach.

It’s really tempting to plan a summer trip somewhere your family really wants to visit–and figure if you’re knocking out college visits, the trip must be more than worth it.

But if you want to take a vacation, by all means take a vacation. Or two! Just don’t fall into the mindset we just described above.

See, the schools you visit should depend on the career development work your child has been doing–not places you want to sightsee or relax.

And that’s the only reason you should be visiting schools. This may sound like a bold statement, but it’s the truth:


Really? But why?

Well, if you don’t know what your teen wants to study, how do you know if the schools you visit are good at graduating students with those degrees?

How do you know if those schools even have those degrees?

Maybe all the schools in the California coast aren’t great at graduating students with your child’s desired career. (We can tell you right now–all the schools in California are good at different things). So you really should have a good idea about what your teenager wants to do career-wise before he or she picks the schools that have those best programs.

But what do you mean by career development work?

We mean real research and assessment, delving in to your students strengths and passions. And then research as to how these strengths and interests correlate into areas of study in careers in the real world.

At College Liftoff, it takes us about 40 hours to complete this necessary work with our students. But if done over the summer, our students can complete it pretty easily over the course of two months.

As we’ve said before, most teens only know a few careers–i.e., doctors, teachers, lawyers, and what their parents do. And yet they don’t know all the facets and niches within those fields…or how to pursue the correct combination of majors and minors that will get them there.

(The fact that most universities have over a hundred majors  doesn’t  make the process any easier for a 17 year old.)

So where do you start? We suggest  taking your child to work and expose him or her to your career–including those you work with who aren’t in your exact role–to start. For example, if you are in sales, expose your teen to your colleagues in marketing, HR, accounting, customer service, operations, etc.

And use the summer to get your child enrolled with a college preparation program designed to do this real work. It truly does take about 40 hours to do it right. Unfortunately, your high school guidance counselor won’t be able to spend anywhere near that kind of time with your child.

OK, I get all this. But I’m feeling peer pressure to visit schools–another family I know has already visited 12 schools! Won’t we fall behind them?

We totally get you might be feeling that way–especially when everyone around you is doing the opposite of what we’ve just told you. But the truth is, college visits aren’t a competition. Theres no rush at this point.

And there’s no quota. Everyone else around you visiting schools without doing the necessary career development work is understandably misguided–because no one has ever told them otherwise. So they’re throwing darts at the wall.

And their teens likely aren’t as focused as your child, since your child will be spending the summer doing vital career development work. 🙂


College Liftoff is Ohio’s premier college planning firmSince 2009, College Liftoff has helped hundreds of teens find their best-fitting colleges and career paths, while saving their families more than $30 million in higher education costs.  College Liftoff’s motto is “securing your son or daughter’s brightest future…and saving you thousands of dollars along the way.” Let them do the same for  you.

Call 614-329-6633 or visit