A Parent’s Survival Guide to Open House

Sheridan Open House.

Spring/Fall has arrived and with it, the opportunity to visit campuses with your future postsecondary student. What begins as a glorious opportunity for parent-child bonding, can quickly become an overwhelming process fraught with emotion. Stay calm and carry on!

Postsecondary education is one of the biggest lifetime decisions your student will make. They wouldn’t purchase a car without a test drive, and the same applies to their education. Simply reviewing websites and viewbooks is not enough. The campus visit is critical, as it provides a glimpse into campus culture. Are the students, staff and faculty welcoming and easy to talk to? And don’t forget to check out the study, recreation and living facilities.

Having gone through this experience with my two, very different kids, I understand the anxiety and the frustration. Sometimes it can feel like you’re dragging your student from campus to campus.

Although I gave my kids some freedom when it came to exploring their postsecondary options, I preferred to be informed as well. Here’s a simple guide to navigate your Open House visit:

1. Come prepared. Do some on-line research with your student prior to your visit. Bring a list of their programs of interest and review the admission requirements in advance.

2. Prepare a list of their questions and yours. No worries, it’s quite common to feel like “you don’t know, what you don’t know.” Commonly asked questions include:

• How do we find the right program?
• What credentials and pathways are available?
• What supports and services are available?
• Is there residence?
• What will all this cost? How will we pay for it?
• How do we apply? How will the college communicate with us afterwards?
• Are there deadlines we need to know about?
• How many students attend this campus? What is the typical class size?
• Is a laptop required?
• Is transportation readily available?
• Are there opportunities to become involved outside of class?

3. Engage your student – encourage them to ask questions and advocate for themselves. Listen to what they are saying about their career goals.

4. Have an open mind. Ask questions and listen. Believe it or not, things have changed since you were in school! Learn the “lingo”. The process includes a vocabulary that may be foreign to you.

5. Wear comfortable shoes. The campus tour is a must!

The goal of Open House is ultimately for your student to determine if Sheridan “feels like the right fit”. What is their gut telling them? During my daughter’s postsecondary selection process, I felt like I was forcing her to attend Open Houses. (Yes, there was a lot of eye rolling.) We visited a sprawling institution with 30,000 students, a hip downtown campus, and a smaller campus in a park-like setting. After speaking to students, reviewing their work and taking tours, the choice became clear. I was thrilled when she announced, “This is the place for me.” My son meanwhile, narrowed it down to 2 institutions. In the end it was the actual courses offered within the programs and the availability of co-op that were the deciding factors for him.

How do you as a parent fit into this process? This will depend on your parenting style and your relationship with your student. Certainly your role is to listen, to guide and to be supportive. But you may choose to assist when necessary, to find the answers to help your student make their decision.

For more information about Sheridan’s Open House, please visit: openhouse.sheridancollege.ca

Like all things, this too is a journey…. enjoy the ride!

Darlene Charette

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