Campus tours are sometimes referred to as “the golden mile” and tour guides have been called a campus’ most important employee.
Both the tour guide and the campus tour are tools for the college to reel you in, educate you about the school, and entice you to apply and perhaps enroll. The college visit is, however, as much about you learning if the school is a good fit for you as it is a way for them to excite you about their institution.
Not all campus tours are created equal, though, and you should NOT just be the passive recipient of information. The most informative campus tours are ones in which you are actively engaged, so don’t roll your eyes at your parents when they ask a question–jump on the bandwagon and ask away!
You are going to spend a lot of time, energy, and money in college. It will be your home away from home.
So think about the things that are important to you and ask about those issues on campus.
Here are 7 critical must-ask questions to ask on a college visit:
1. How’s the food–specifically?
We all have to eat, so ask about the food. But don’t just ask, “How’s the food?” That’s a very broad question. Instead, you might ask, “What’s your favorite food in the cafeteria?,” “Do they do special theme nights?,” or “What foods do you avoid?”
If you have any dietary needs (vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) you will certainly want to raise those and see what variety they have for anyone with special dietary needs.
2. What’s there to do?
What activities are there on the weekend?
You might ask, “What are your favorite events/weekends on campus?,” “What percentage of the campus is Greek (i.e. in a fraternity or sorority)?,” or “What do you wish was available on the weekends?”
This will tell you a lot about the campus culture and how you’ll fit in. Is it one that’s centered on partying? Academics? Are there a lot of on-campus activities? Try to get as much detail as possible about what kind of things take place and see if it sounds like something you’d like to partake in.
3. What’s the living situation like?
Do freshmen live together in freshman only housing? Is substance-free housing available?
The folks you spend the most time with will have a huge impact on your college experience. So, be sure to get a lot of information about who you’ll be housing with, and what you can expect (Do people spend time in the common areas? Are doors usually kept open or closed in the dorms?).
4. What has been your best/worst academic experience?
Your tour guide will almost certainly tout the academics of their institution. But, press them to give you more specifics. What has been good about their experience? Can they be open and honest about something that hasn’t been as great?
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions based on the answers. This is one of the biggest components of one of your most important life decisions.
5. What professor has made an impact on you and why?
Want to get a good feel for how well students interact with professors? Then, ask this question. Professors always offer office hours and other ways to “get in touch”, but that doesn’t mean that students get the same attention at all colleges.
If having some personal help and interaction with your instructors is important, then ask for specific information about other students’ experiences to get a good idea for how accessible your professors might be if you attend.
6. If you could change one thing about this school, what would it be?
Here’s a good way to get current students to share some of the college’s weaknesses with you. Every school is sure to have something that’s not quite “perfect”, but it’s up to you to determine which things are a showstopper and which ones you can deal with.
Note: The answer here will definitely depend on who you ask. If you’re at a big college and the student you ask would feel more at home at a smaller school, then their answer may not be a “fair” assessment–so be sure to put the responses you get into the right context.
7. What is your favorite thing about this school?
Let students tell you what makes their school great. Press them to give you answers other than just what’s written in the college’s brochure or on their website.
Hopefully, they can give you an open and honest answer that will give you some great insight into what makes the college great from the student’s perspective.
There are, of course, hundreds of other questions you can ask. But, what you shouldn’t do is spend your time asking about stats and information you can find on the school’s website or marketing materials.
Do your homework by looking over the college’s website before your visit. Try to see the school as if you went there. Take advantage of your interaction with people on campus by trying to get their take on-campus life. Recognize that their opinion(s) might not be yours, but you’ll certainly get more info from a campus visit than you will from the finely crafted message the college admissions office chooses to put in on their website.