You can read every piece of information on a college’s website, but you’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a student there until you take a campus tour. Whether you’re visiting a local college or a university on the other side of the country, you need to take the tour seriously to make an informed final decision. Here are some of the benefits of campus tours and five tips to help you get the most out of these experiences.
Why attend campus tours?
A campus tour gives you a chance to see the school in person and understand the student experience firsthand through important connections such as:
- Getting a feel for the campus: During a tour, you can walk through the halls, explore campus, and picture yourself calling this school home for the next four years.
- Learn from current students: In most cases, the people conducting school tours are current students. They can provide honest insights about the college and what makes it great.
- Get answers to essential questions: Learning about things like student life, activities, and campus traditions online or through a brochure can be challenging. An in-person tour gives you the chance to ask crucial questions and get in-depth answers.
Related: 3 Main Types of College Visits You Should Know About
How to get the most out of your tour
If you’re going to take the time to attend a college tour, you might as well get as much out of it as possible—especially if you’re thinking about going to a school far from home. These tips will help you enjoy the tour and get the information you need to make the best choice for your future.
Make sure you can see and hear well
You’ve taken the time to set up a tour and travel to the school. How frustrating would it be to spend the whole tour craning your neck trying to see what’s going on or straining to hear what the tour guide is saying? Arrive early so you can chat with your guide and get to know the other attendees. Then choose your place in the group carefully. Stand near the front to make it easier to hear the guide, especially when they stop to talk about a specific building or highlight a vital aspect of the school. Some schools utilize helpful technology like communication headsets to make sure you don’t miss anything while walking in a large group. But if you do miss something, don’t hesitate to ask the guide to repeat themselves. This is your time to explore the school, and there’s nothing wrong with seeking clarification.
Seek out your desired major’s department
All aspects of the tour matter and will contribute to your decision on which college to attend. However, a trip to your department(s) of interest is critical. Say you plan to major in Computer Science—pay attention to the Computer Science building, where it’s located, the kind of equipment you’ll have access to, the number of people milling around the area, etc. If you notice the building seems poorly maintained or has outdated equipment, that might be a sign you won’t get the level of training you need at this school. Conversely, if it seems like it was recently updated and has the latest tools and technologies, that’s a positive sign.
Related: Campus Tours: What to Expect and How to Prepare Ahead of Time
Ask the right questions
When you ask specific, relevant questions while you’re visiting campus, it’s easier to gain valuable insights and decide whether a school is right for you. Here are some essential questions to cover during the tour:
- Who conducts admission interviews: alumni, students, admission officers?
- Do any majors have an enrollment cap?
- On average, how many students are admitted to the college each year?
- Are most classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
- What’s the average class size?
- Who gets priority during course registration periods?
- How many classes do most students take each semester?
- How popular is my desired major?
Student support questions
- What kinds of tutoring services are available?
- How often can students meet with academic advisors?
- How easy is it to connect with professors outside the classroom?
- What kind of mental health support is available on campus?
Financial aid questions
- What percentage of students receive financial aid or scholarships?
- Do financial aid packages adjust along with tuition?
- How easy is it to contact financial aid officers?
Student life questions
- How did you get involved as a new student here?
- What are the best ways to make new friends on campus?
- What are some of the school’s most significant events and traditions?
- Are students required to live on campus? If not, what percentage of students do?
- How much control do students have over where they live or with whom?
- What kind of relationship does the school have with the local community?
Student outcome questions
- What is the four-year graduation rate?
- What is the retention rate from freshman to sophomore year?
- What kind of career guidance do students receive here?
Explore on your own
It’s great to be part of a group and talk to your guide during a college visit. However, you should break off when the tour ends and explore on your own. It’ll give you a chance to soak up the school environment in a more natural way. Pay attention to how you feel as you wander and spend more time in areas that are most relevant to you and your college goals.
Take notes and reflect
Take notes or use your phone to record during the campus tour—but always ask permission before recording video or audio of anyone. When you’re finished for the day, look back at your notes or listen back to the recording and consider the highlights. What positives and negatives stood out to you? Use this information to compare different schools and choose the right one for you.
Related: How to Take Your Campus Visit Experience Into Your Own Hands
Now that you know how important campus tours are and the best way to maximize their value, it’s time to start scheduling appointments. Research and contact the colleges and universities you want to visit to find upcoming tour dates and book your spot.
Learn more about the colleges and universities you’d like to visit by researching them with our College Search tool.