Visiting colleges is an important process for anyone ready to go from high school to college life. My brother is about to begin this process himself and I will be helping out by taking him to some college visits in and our of state. This hits home for me a bit more since I was also a tour guide or as we were admissions ambassadors, for my university for most of my time there so college tours hold a different value to me. I was that tour guide being bombarded with questions, sometimes accusations and rumors about the school as well. It’s important to do your homework before going on the tour. Visiting a college without knowing anything about it is only doing a disservice to yourself not to mention wasting your time and probably your parents. I will admit that sometimes this doesn’t matter… aka, your high school gives “excused absences” for college visits and you needed a “mental health day” so you visited a school to.. skip school haha!
What to see – Every campus tour is different. Typically, the tour guides have pre-determined routes they will walk, rooms and labs they will show as well as key talking points at area’s where the tour group can be stopped to look around and listen. Aside from the standard tour you may be interested in seeing something else. For example, at my university we never showed the athletic facilities as part of the tour due to where they were on campus in relation to where the doors, academics and food was. However, when we did have someone interested, we would take them after the “normal” tour on a more personal tour of the facilities. Also, keep in mind some tour’s may be themed. We would do themed tours such as all engineers, all art majors, etc. Understandably, you may be undecided, which is a general tour, but nonetheless if you are decided a more focused tour on your area may be something you are interested in. You should plan to see some academic area’s, some administration area’s, the cafe and other food options, the general outdoor/indoor common area’s as well as a freshman dorm. At times you may also be shown an upperclassman dorm which are normally nicer then freshman, but that may not be part of the standard tour. Aside from these area’s, you may want to check out advising services, the student activities center as well as any religious center you may be interested in.
What to ask – The questions were my favorite part of giving tours. This is for a number of reasons. Sometimes the questions were funny and sometimes the questions were really good and benefited the entire tour group. The tour guides used to all keep track of the great questions. I mean, lets be honest, you can only imagine the type of questions parents ask when sending their first daughter to college when we are visiting the dorms for the first time. I have heard everything from how does the university ensure boy’s and girl’s aren’t sleeping together (mind you this was Umass) to who makes sure their rooms are cleaned and beds are made. HA! Asking the right questions goes hand in hand with doing your homework. Check out the school website and learn about the academics and services offered. Learn about what there is to do and prepare questions about things you didn’t get answered from the website.
What to disregard – This can be tough. The first thing I would say to try to brush off is if you have a bad tour guide. Dont let the tour guide ruin the school for you as this is something we were trained on continuously. Sometimes a first impression can go a long way, especially if the family traveled from out of state. Keep in mind the tour guide is a college student in most cases and who knows what is going on in that students life. Of course, they may just be hungover or they may just be having a bad day, after a bad class or a tough test. Keep in mind the tour guide will always try to do their best, but you should also do your best to take in everything on your own. Most of the facts the tour guide will give are on the school website, the real reason you are there is to physically see the classrooms, dorms, life, etc. so make sure you do regardless of a good or bad tour.
One last thing to mention is if you are visiting schools out of state, it can be a great excuse for a family vacation. If you plan ahead and schedule the tours within the same week you can travel and see the schools while taking a family trip to somewhere new. I had many families on my tours who were from out of state making a vacation out of checking out schools.