Tips for College Touring
In the last few years we’ve been on countless tours and information sessions and learned a few things along the way. We also grilled other parents, students and college advisors for their suggestions and advice so you can make the most of your college visits.
Timing is everything. When you go is crucial--plan your visit while school is in session to get the full campus effect and see student life in action. While admissions offices are often open during college breaks, the campus itself will be deserted. Also avoid exam time—students are stressed and everyone is in the library. If you can only visit during the summer months try and go early in the season; many schools have summer sessions and while quieter than in the fall or spring it won’t feel like a ghost town.
Plan early. Do your research ahead, map out your travel plan and book your tours online. (Some tours at the larger schools get booked during busy visiting times) Set aside at least a half day per school to allow time for both the information session and tour, though if you have to choose one skip the information session.
Organize a Sleepover. Contact a current student and see if your child can spend the night or at least a few hours in the dorm. (Yes, get in touch with your Aunt’s neighbor’s kid—don’t be shy, everyone loves to show off their school) This is the best way to get a taste of student life, meet other students in a natural setting and see if the school feels like a good fit.
Town is important. Leave time to explore the neighborhood after the tour: Do you need a car? Is there public transportation? Are there parks nearby? Restaurants? What is the housing situation beyond the dorms? Remember this may be your child’s home for the next four years.
Say hello. It’s hard to get the essence of a school just by touring with a big group. Talk to current students to get honest answers and current campus sentiment. Go where students hang out and observe—grab a coffee in the student center, have a meal in a dining hall, or attend a sporting event.
Stand out. If your child is passionate about a school, see if it’s possible to sit in on a class, meet with a sports coach, the head of an academic department or an admissions counselor. Encourage them to talk to the admissions rep after the information session or stop by the office and introduce themselves. They should get the contact information and follow up after the visit by email.
Maximize. If you have younger siblings in high school bring them along. It could save you time and money in the future and even motivate them to study harder. (“Yes, now I know why I’m working so hard!”)
Show interest. Some schools take note of who has visited, if a school is one of your child’s top choices demonstrate that by visiting.
Reading Material. Pick up a copy of the student newspaper to read at home and scan the bulletin boards at the student center and bookstore.
Late Night. Going out at night is one of the best ways to get a close up look at the social scene. There’s usually one or two bars that the students congregate at—stop by for a nightcap.
Reflect. Have your child keep a journal with notes and impressions on each school visit--after a few tours and information sessions the schools do blend together.
Don’t be overly expressive with your opinions—let your child decide what they think and feel about each school.
Geography. Try and visit a campus that is urban as well as rural. If the school your interested in is too far away for a visit, choose a similar school nearby to get a feel for what it would be like. Let your child decide what they think and feel about each school.
1. Why did you choose this college? What other schools did you consider? Are you happy with your choice?
2. What is the average class size in your general studies classes and in your major-specific courses?
3. Do professors or graduate students teach your classes?
4. Does the school have a required core curriculum? Is there a foreign language or a math requirement?
5. What are the most popular majors at your school? When do you have to declare your major?
6. What do you think of the library? Does it stay open late? How easy is it to get access to the books you need?
7. What is the quality of the food service? What are the hours for the dining halls?
8. Are faculty members accessible and supportive? What is the student/faculty interaction? How often do you talk with your professors outside of class?
9. What percentage of students study abroad at some time?
10. What support services are available to help ease the transition from high school to college?
11. Is it easy to get involved in campus activities and clubs?
12. Are some dorms better than others? Do all freshmen have to live on campus? Is it easy to trade dorms or switch roommates? Do most upperclassmen choose to live on campus or off?
13. What do students do for fun on the weekend? Do most students stay on campus? What are some typical weekend activities?
14. Is Greek life a big factor on campus?
15. What are some of the campus issues that students have been vocal about this past year?
16. What is the attitude toward working hard? How many hours on average do students spend studying each week? How competitive is the student body? Do students help each other prepare for exams?
17. How easy is it to procure internships or field experiences?
18. Where do most students come from? Have you met many international students? Is the school a diverse community?
19. Do you like the greater community beyond the campus? What is the local town or city like?
20. What do you like best about your experience and education so far? What do you think is the greatest shortcoming of this college?
21. What kinds of students do you think are happiest here? Which ones are least happy?
22. What percentage of students graduate with job offers? What is the percentage of graduates employed in their field of choice?
23. Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known as a prospective student?