The time is here! You’ve scouted various colleges, found a few that fit your needs and wants (at least on paper), and are ready for the next step – the College Tour. This is the fun part of searching for your ideal school!
Whether all of your schools are local, or whether you’re traveling across the country to find the perfect one, there are definitely some things you have to do when you’re visiting campus. These 6 things will ensure that you get the most out of your college tour.
Still looking for a school? CollegeBoard has a fantastic search tool to help you find great options.
Ask Lots of Questions
This is the number one tip for your college tour. If you don’t ask, you probably won’t get the answer. In addition to academic questions (such as the average GPA of accepted students, or whether they specialize in your chosen major), make sure to ask questions about living on campus. Is it very walkable, or is a car a good idea? What extracurricular activities are offered? Is Greek life a large part of campus culture? Are freshmen required to stay in a dorm? The feel of the campus is just as important as the academics.
View or Stay in a Dorm
Most colleges require freshmen to live on campus, and that means living in a dorm. The dorms themselves may not be what makes or breaks your choice of college, but it definitely can’t hurt to see them. The conditions of dorms vary widely from school to school, so it’s a good idea to take a look at one so you can see what they have to offer. Some schools even have specific dorms just for freshmen, or you may get to pick your building if you’re lucky.
Make sure to take photos, if you’re able. If you decide that’s the school for you, then you can plan on how to decorate it! (Don’t forget to check out my list of 10 things you need for your dorm!) My freshman orientation also had us staying in a dorm overnight so that we could get a feel for it. It was a good experience, because I was able to get used to the idea of the dorm.
Talk to or Shadow a Student
Nobody knows a school better than its students! Guided tours hosted by a school are often led by upperclassmen, and they’re likely full of resources and personal experiences to share with you. I honestly found the student Q-and-A to be the most helpful part of my college tour, because they were able to explain what it was like to be a student from an actual student’s point of view.
Tour the Area Around the Campus
Is the school you’re touring deep in the heart of a big city, or is it on the edge of a little town? The area surrounding your college is an important part of what shapes the culture of the campus, and you should feel safe and secure there. This is especially important if you’re moving far from home, when you may not have any friends or family immediately nearby. Where do you go if you need groceries? Where is the closest police station? What about parks or activity venues? Is public transportation readily available, or would it be easier to have a bicycle or car with you?
Find the Common Areas
Most of your time is going to be spent on campus, between classes, studying, and sleeping. It’s important to get to know all of the resources available to you while you’re in the dorm or between classes. What gathering places are available? Where are the library, bookstore, and dining hall in relation to your dorm? Are there other food options on campus? Is there a gym or recreation center available to students (if so, what is the cost)?
If you’re in specialized majors or part of an honors or other academic program, there may be specific areas or resources available to you. Get to know those as well!
Meet with Admissions
You’ll want to talk with the admissions office to gather more information about admission prerequisites, how to apply, and what specific requirements they have for freshmen. They may also be able to give you a rough idea of tuition costs, campus life, and what their graduation plans look like. Often they will have packets of information for prospective students that can answer a lot of your questions. Make sure to take notes, because they may give you tips that aren’t found on their website.
Keep in mind that some colleges will have scheduled tours that cover a lot of these bases and are great for prospective students. They often hold them over spring semester and summer break to make it easy for you to visit. If they don’t, though, make sure to keep these 6 things in mind, and bring a notebook so you can write down everything that stands out to you.
I recommend taking lots of photos and making a pro/con list of each campus so that when you’ve toured all of your schools, you can sit down and compare them all. Don’t forget that the list will need to be prioritized. What is most important to you when finding the perfect college?