You know you’re supposed to compare colleges, list out your wants in a school, and at least start thinking about your major. And you know you should probably take a trip to some campuses – they can give you a truer picture of a school than a virtual tour can! But do you know what you should be doing during your visit?
Aside from simply seeing the main buildings, like some of the dormitories and classrooms, you should absolutely take some time to talk to students walking around campus!
Why Should You Talk to Current College Students?
Many of the people conducting the official campus tour, faculty, current students, and alumni alike, are trying to sell you on the school. They’re only going to give the college glowing reviews. By talking to everyday regular students, you can get a clearer, more realistic picture. They’re living the experience without trying to sell you on something. Current students are more likely to give you an honest take on the school, campus, their classes, and the surrounding town.
Now keep in mind, it’s entirely likely that you will run into students who can’t stop in chat (they may be running late to class!) or are simply shy and would rather not. Don’t give up and don’t hold it against them. They shouldn’t feel pressured to talk to you. Try to find someone who seems to be relaxing on the Quad, for example.
We recommend talking to a few different students to get a good picture of the college. The first student you run into may give a very negative view of the school, but the following five could love it. Or vice versa. You don’t want to base your entire decision off one student!
When Is the Best Time to Visit A College Campus?
Ideally, the best time to visit a college you’re interested in is during the spring or fall semesters when classes are in session. The college may have summer classes, but students will be few and far between. During the “regular” school year, students will be everywhere. There will be plenty of opportunities to find someone who isn’t in a rush.
Some students visit campuses before they submit their applications, while others wait until after they receive acceptance letters. Some even do both! If you have to travel far or it’ll cost a lot of money, we recommend going after you received your acceptance letter to the college.
What If You Can’t Visit in Person?
Some students don’t always have the opportunity to travel to every campus on their list. If you’re in this boat, you can absolutely find current students online to talk to! Go to social media and find students that are going to the school. You can look on the official Facebook page for the college and find students in the comments. Or you can go to the college’s subreddit on Reddit. There are plenty of places though to find them online!
Questions to Ask Current College Students
We’ve put together a list of some questions to ask current college students, either in person or online. You shouldn’t ask someone every single question on this list, especially if they’re rushing somewhere, but a few per student who agrees to talk to you should be fine! Of course, there will be some exceptions – you might just run into someone who wants to chat and is more than happy to answer all the questions you might have!
Here are just a few Questions to Ask Current College Students:
- Why did you pick to attend this college?
- What was your freshman experience like?
- Do you feel there’s a good support / transition program for freshman students?
- What is your favorite thing about this college? Least favorite?
- Where is your favorite study place on campus?
- Favorite place to eat?
- What are you studying here?
- If you could change one thing about this college, what would it be?
- Are the career fairs good here?
- What are the financial aid opportunities like?
- What sort of campus events does the school put on?
- Any advice for incoming freshmen?
- How approachable are the staff/faculty/administration?
- How would you describe the community atmosphere?
- What is the surrounding city/town/village like?
- What clubs, student organizations or extracurricular activities do you recommend?
- Did anything surprise you when you became a student? Like costs or rules?
- What is dorm life like?
- What would you say the school’s strengths are? Weaknesses?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it can hopefully get a conversation going and answer a few questions along the way. If you’re interested in being a student at that particular college, some of the best people you can talk to are the other students themselves.
You should also be asking questions important to you! If you find someone who is in your intended major, you might want to ask more pointed questions. Or if something is important to you, like a particular student organization, you may want to bring that up, too! You can absolutely pick and choose from the list above and create your own list.
Will you be planning a trip to a college campus soon? It can be extremely helpful to go with these questions in your back pocket! Just remember to keep in mind what you want out of a college during your conversation.
If you’re still not sure what colleges you want to attend or which might be a right match for your wants and needs, we recommend using College Raptor’s FREE College Match tool. You can enter in your wants, needs, grades, and more to find the perfect college for you.