Ask the nitty gritty questions that will help you get a feel for the atmosphere, the students, and life on campus. (BTW, new questions as of June 2016!)
Why are campus visits so important? For all the online research and virtual tours you do, there really is no better way to get a sense of how you truly feel about a college until you step foot on campus. It’s an invaluable opportunity to get a sense of what your life will really be like as a student there. You will have a gut reaction, and that’s something you just can’t get anywhere else.
But as important as the campus visit is, it can be a total waste of time if you don't ask the right questions. The key is to avoid questions that can easily be answered by a brochure on the college’s website. Instead ask the nitty gritty questions that will help you get a feel for the atmosphere, the students, and life on campus.
Here are all the questions you need to get started. You probably won’t have time to ask every single one—even if you did, you’d be totally dominating your group’s visit, and you don’t want to be that person. So pick the questions that are more important to you. (However, you should probably still try to figure out the answers to most if not all of these questions on your own anyway, so you get a complete picture of the college and what it can offer you.)
Also, keep in mind you may find yourself asking these questions of your tour guide, professors, professionals in the financial aid office or library, or even enrolled students just hanging out around campus. This is your chance to really get to know a college, so don’t be shy!
Questions about admission
- Is admission need-blind or need-aware?
- How many students are typically accepted through early admission or the waitlist?
- What’s the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate?
- What’s the four-year graduation rate? Six-year graduation rate?
- Are things like family legacy considered in admission?
Questions about financial aid
- What kinds of financial aid packages are offered, and what’s the average amount?
- What percentage of students (not just how many students!) receives financial aid?
- What’s the average percentage of financial need (not just how much aid!) that is met?
- What kind of academic and need-based scholarships are offered?
- Is there a work-study program? If so, what jobs are available?
Questions about academics
- What’s the academic vibe like on campus?
- How often do TAs teach classes?
- What are midterms and finals like?
- What reputation does my major have?
- What student-faculty research opportunities exist for undergraduates?
- What kinds of mentoring and advising relationships do students and faculty have?
- Can my tests (AP, SAT Subject Tests, etc.) be used for credit?
- What is the student-faculty ratio in my major?
- How many students are in the typical freshman classes? What about upper-level classes?
- Is the teaching innovative, discussion- and project-oriented, or is it mostly lectures?
- How involved are academic advisors?
- What tutoring services are available to students?
- Are there any academic “extras” here like an honors college, learning communities, first-year interest groups, and major- or academic achievement–related fraternities and sororities? How many students participate in these “extras”?
- Are any art or music practice spaces available to non-majors?
- What are the campus computer labs like, and is there IT assistance?
- How many quiet spaces are there for studying?
- Does the school have access to any additional library collections (local or other school libraries)?
Questions for the students you meet
- Why did you choose this college?
- What are your favorite and least favorite things about going here?
- How friendly and welcoming is the campus?
- How accessible are professors typically?
- What are the strong majors and what are the weak majors?
- How hard do you have to work to get good grades?
- How easy is to get around campus or off campus? Are there places within walking distance or do you need a car?
- What is the relationship between the college and neighboring community like?
- How’s the dining hall food? (Pro tip: eat it!) And what are the meal plans like?
- Does the dining hall cater to food allergies or other special dietary needs?
- What other dining options are there on and around campus?
- What’s the social vibe like on campus?
- What do students do on weekends? Do they all go home or hang around on campus?
- What do students do for fun on campus and off?
- How involved are students in extracurriculars, and which activities are most popular?
- What’s Greek life like, and how do students feel about it?
Questions about the campus and dorms
- What’s the res life vibe like?
- What’s the campus crime rate like?
- What does the college do to ensure campus safety in general? What about in the event of an emergency?
- How large is the campus security force? Does it patrol the campus regularly?
- How are residence halls secured?
- Is there any sort of late-night shuttle service?
- How many dorms are there, and how do they differ?
- Are the dorms spread through the campus or clustered in one area?
- What are the off-campus living options, and what do they typically cost?
- What’s the availability of WiFi like on campus?
Questions about the gym, health, and/or wellness center
- What services does the health center offer?
- What kinds of counseling and/or mental health services are available?
- Are there any stress-relief programs during midterms and finals?
- How popular is the gym, and how late is it open?
- What kind of sports equipment does the campus have? Is it well-kept?
- Do non-varsity players have access to all athletic facilities?
- How active is the student body in terms of sports?
- How popular are campus sporting events amongst fans?
Questions about the career center
- Where have students interned, and are there any formal internship arrangements with local companies?
- What’s the job placement rate for last year’s graduating class?
- How long does it typically take recent grads to find a full-time job in their career field?
- What career advising services are offered, and how long are they available to graduates?
- What networking or career fairs are held each year?
- How accessible and involved are alumni?
- What kinds of on-campus or local part-time jobs are available?
Questions to ask yourself
- How did you really feel when you were on campus?
- How did the staff members interact with students? Were they friendly or authoritarian?
- How would you feel about being in a classroom with the students you met? What about sharing a dorm with them?
- Did the students try to make you feel at home? Were they helpful in answering your questions? How did they interact with one another?
- Did the campus seem like a good size for you?
- Were the dorms single-sex or co-ed? How did you feel about that?
- Were the dorms too quiet? Too noisy? Too crowded? Too anything for your tastes?
- Did it seem like there was much to do outside of campus?
- Did you feel comfortable and safe?
- Are there stores nearby where you can buy groceries, dorm supplies, materials for class projects, etc.?
Bonus! Questions you should NOT ask
- Do you think I’ll be admitted? How much financial aid do you think I’ll get? No one can answer this for you—and admission and financial aid folks really don’t like it when students put them on the spot.
- What were your test scores, GPA, etc.? How much financial aid did you get? Where else did you apply? Don’t ask your tour guide or any students you meet personal questions like this. #rude
- How many students go here? How much is tuition? What’s the weather like? You have a whole list of meaningful campus visit questions to ask—don’t waste your tour guide’s time on basic stuff you could find with a two-second Google search!
Remember, you are visiting the college to find out if it’s a good match for you. The students who are already there may like it, but you have to decide if you will too. So try to envision whether you can actually study there. Decide what’s important to you, whether its class size, awesome extracurricular activities, or attentive professors, and make sure those elements are in place.
Did you ask any other questions during your campus visits that were particular helpful? Share them in the comments! And if you need more campus visit help, look no further—because we have a ton of it!
- Campus Visit Do's and Don'ts
- When should I visit college campuses?
- The Worst Campus Visit Mistakes
- Behind–the–Scenes Tips for the College Tour
- What to Do When You Can't Go on an Official Campus Tour
- The Secret to a Great Campus Visit
- Take the Campus Visit Etiquette Quiz!
- Can't Afford College Visits? Here Are 8 Ways to Make It Work
- College Visits Should be Fun, Not Stressful