In this age where you can find everything on the Internet, it’s important to realize that nothing beats actually visiting a college campus. Websites are a wonderful way to give you lots of information about a college, from classes to financial aid. But taking a tour of the college puts everything into context and gives you a feeling about how you might fit into that school’s atmosphere. A campus tour can also show you if the college will match your personality and interests. It’s an important step before committing years of your life and thousands of dollars. Here are a few tips to guide you on a college campus tour.
Where to Begin?
We suggest you start looking at the local college campuses in your area. Make sure to visit the colleges that are small, large, private and don’t forget about the community colleges. Sometimes the college that fits you the best is the one that is right in your own backyard. Also consider how far away from home you want to go. If you’re going to stay locally think about how long the commute will be and commute times. These are all things that can help you make a decision.
When Should You Visit?
If you’re a high school junior, winter and spring breaks are the best times for narrowing down your college choices. Think about planning a trip with some fun activities at one or two college campuses during your vacation. This will give you a look at the campus without the pressure of a full on college tour. Think about picking 3 to 5 colleges you can visit in a week.
As a high school senior, the best time to visit a college campus is in late February and early March. That’s when colleges tend to have their spring breaks. High school breaks are also good times to see campuses with students going to classes, eating in dining halls and hanging around the campus.
If you can’t visit during the winter or spring breaks, consider trying a campus tour in the summer time. You won’t see too many students, but if you set up a tour ahead of time, you will be able to meet a campus ambassador and hear a presentation from student guides.
What to Think About on a Campus Tour?
Once you have your college campus tour planned, it is time to think about what you want to get out of the campus tour. It’s a good idea to have a checklist of what might be important to you, so you can make sure to pay attention to those things on the tour. Here are five things you should consider when on your campus tour:
- Students – Do they look like people you would want to know? Do they look happy, engaged, busy, relaxed, stressed? Consider how you might fit into this kind of environment.
- Social Life/Campus Activities – What do students do on the weekends? What do students do on campus for fun? Are there Fraternities and Sororities?
- Campus Facilities – What are the dorms like? Are they new or old? How about the classrooms? Do they look high tech? How is the food on campus? Can you see yourself eating there?
- On & Off Campus Community – Is it a college community? Is it a commuter campus? Does weather matter? How’s the parking situation? Do you need a permit?
- Academics & Faculty – How are the student/teacher relationships? Is it easy to move from one major to another? Or from one department (engineering) to another (business)? How are the research facilities for internships, alumni networking or career support?
Most importantly, ask questions! When you’re on the tour make sure to ask the campus tour guide any questions you may have about the school that they haven’t answered. You may even want to ask them about their personal feelings on the college. Another option is to ask other students on campus about the college. You’d be surprised how many students are willing to share their advice with you.
For parents, one last thing to note is, if you take your student to visit a couple of colleges early in their high school years, or in their late middle school years, you will help them understand the value of challenging themselves academically. Not to mention it will give them a better idea of what to expect once they make the big step towards college.
I discussed the topic of “Campus Visits – Tips for Making the Most of a Campus Visit,” with my guest Nancy Wigley, Independent College Counselor with College Search Strategies.
Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.
Photo Credit: poeloq