Many if not most students say that the college visit was the most important deciding factor in choosing a college. For this reason alone it's important to be well prepared for your visit.
In order to make the most of the tour, follow these tips, some of which begin before you even get to campus.
1. Do Your Research
Because the college tour is often seen as the deciding factor, it's important to only visit schools if you are reasonably sure they are affordable and attainable. There's no reason to waste a lot of time visiting a lot of schools that you'll never be able to attend. Choose one or two colleges that are considered "reach" schools and make sure the rest of the schools you visit are a good match for you academically and financially.
2. Go While School is in Session
The best time to plan a campus tour is Monday through Thursday in the fall or spring when school is in session. If possible, see if you can spend a night on campus and eat in the dining hall. You should also ask to sit in on a class to get a taste of what the teaching is like.
3. Ask Lots of Questions
A campus tour is the perfect time to ask questions about college life. Prepare some questions ahead of time during your research phase. Don’t just ask the tour guide questions. Make sure you also speak to current students and faculty members. A few questions you could ask include:
- What is the average class size?
- Is it possible to graduate in four years?
- How easy is it to find a tutor?
- What types of activities are offered?
- What kind of clubs do you have?
- On average how much homework is expected?
- How long does it take students to find full-time work after graduation?
- How long does it take students to pay off their loans?
- How many students continue to graduate school?
4. Be Critical
The school should be doing everything it can to impress you on the first visit. So if you see or hear things you don't like, this could be a warning sign. You should be expecting the tour guide to show you highlights of the school, which is why you may get more honest responses to questions asked of students or other employees. Take note of anyone who responds negatively to questions.
5. Take Notes and Pictures
After visiting a lot of schools, you will probably begin to forget your impressions. Jot down key information on a notebook and take pictures with a camera or cell phone to help you remember each school.
7. Get Off the Beaten Path
You will probably learn the most during your tour by doing some of your own personal exploring. Get off the pathways and try visiting some of the more secluded part of campus. If you know what major you will be studying, check out the buildings where you will most likely have classes. Get a little lost and ask a student or staff person for directions.
8. Use Technology
Did you know some schools offer virtual tours? This is a great way to check out a school before visiting it in person as well as use as a refresher after a tour. Try going on a virtual tour here.
You may also want to check out a school's Instagram account or logon to Yik Yak while you're on campus. This can keep you updated on what's happening now as well as give you insight into the student body.
9. Remember That an Amazing Tour Can't Undo Poor Outcomes!
Our most important tip is to not fall in love with a school based on the tour alone! Do some research before-hand to make sure it's a possible choice for you, but when you're done with the tour do more research. Check a schools graduation rates, loan default rates and average student debt to make sure you won't be attending a risky school.
All the rock-climbing walls and free ice cream cones in the world won't make up for a poor education.
Find your best-fit college and major.