I have been on quite a few college tours. During my college search, I visited 17 colleges in nine different states. And now, I am the one with the nametag walking backward as I lead prospective students and their families around campus.
The best way to get a feel for a school is to go on a campus tour. But as a tour guide myself, I see so many things that prospective students and their families could be doing to enhance their visit and determine if a school is a good match.
Here’s a list of the campus-tour essentials.
1. Ask questions on tours.
As a tour guide, I love answering questions. I stand at the front of my tour group practically begging for people to raise their hands. Your tour guide knows what he or she is talking about, and we want to share our experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the tough ones. By asking questions, you are taking full advantage of the college-tour experience. If you are frequently stumped for questions, prepare a list of questions in advance and bring them with you on the tour. Also, if you are shy or want to ask a question one-on-one, stick around after the tour and ask your tour guide any remaining questions.
2. Go off the beaten path.
While campus tours are a great way to get a feel for a university, there are parts of campus that you won’t visit on a tour. After the tour, take a stroll around campus to see what the tour didn’t show. You can even ask the tour guide for directions to a specific part of campus, building or any other location. Going off the beaten path will give you a better view of the university as a whole. While you are wandering, take note of the little things. How clean is campus? Do students seem friendly? Where are the campus hotspots? Does public safety have a presence on campus? What is the surrounding area like?
3. Visit the dining hall.
You’re going to be eating at your college’s dining hall at least once a day for eight months of the year, so you should definitely make sure that the food on campus has enough options and can accommodate any dietary needs. If you can, visit a dining hall on campus to get a taste for the cuisine of the university. Even if you can’t actually sit down for a meal, ask if you can take a look around and survey the options.
4. Get the tour guide’s contact information.
After the tour, ask your tour guide for his or her email. Most of the time, tour guides are willing to give it out. If they can’t give out their personal email, they can probably give you the email for your admissions counselor or general admissions. On my tours, I carry business cards that I love giving to prospective students. This is a great resource to take advantage of if you think you’ll have questions later down the line or have specific questions about a major. If a tour guide can’t answer your question via email, most will connect you with another tour guide or friend who can help you.
5. Talk to students who aren’t tour guides.
Tour guides can answer your questions and tell you about their experiences, but it’s good to talk to students who aren’t tour guides as well. Don’t be shy. Walk up to someone sitting on a bench on the quad, introduce yourself, ask him or her their major, favorite classes and anything else you are curious about. They will give you an honest opinion that a tour guide won’t necessarily give you in front of the entire group. Talking to average students will give you some insight into the types of students who attend and the atmosphere of the university.
6. Find out more information about the student ambassadors.
Tour guides are typically a part of a larger student organization. At my university, we are called ambassadors. Ask your tour guide or the welcome center for more information about the ambassadors like Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, videos and more. The student ambassadors are there to help you find out if the university is right for you. Doing some further research about them will give you a better idea about the student body and what students are doing during their free time.
7. Make a pros and cons list.
After your tour is over, take a few minutes to evaluate your visit. Sit down with your family and make a pros and cons list. When you go on a seemingly endless amount of college tours, they all start to blend together. You’ll be happy you took a few minutes to sort out your thoughts when you are making those tough decisions come spring. I made a pro/con lists for each school I visited and it made my decision-making process easier. The one with the most “pros,” American University, was ultimately where I chose to enroll.
During your college search, you spend time carefully planning visits, looking at potential courses and weighing your options. Make sure that you are taking advantage of the information and resources available to you on your visit. Tour guides and admission representatives want to help you find out if the school is right for you.
Powered by Facebook Comments