One of the best things you can do to prepare for college is to tour schools you are interested in—and even those you aren’t! Touring colleges you don’t have a particular interest in can show you exactly what you do and don’t like in a school. Sometimes, it’s easier to make a list of deal breakers for colleges and work by the process of elimination than to seek out the perfect fit. Not to mention, you may be surprised and end up liking a college a lot more than you thought after you visit! Below are seven other unexpected but important tips and tricks to keep in mind when visiting and touring colleges.
1. Take a practice tour
If you’re like me, you may feel intimidated by touring a college that means a lot to you. With the competitiveness of the admission process, almost everything feels like a test, or at the very least an opportunity to prove you belong. You may feel nervous you could slip up or say the wrong thing, impacting your chances of “getting in.” If this sounds familiar, try touring a local campus first to get a feel for how a college tour will work. This will also give you something to compare your future tours with. Tours are free, so try to take as many as possible, even if it’s a school you’re not especially interested in. Who knows—you may end up liking the college more than you think.
2. Look presentable
Wearing something nice on your campus visit shows the school you’re touring that you want to be there. Instead of wearing pajamas, sweatpants, or athletic wear, try a button-down shirt and pants, a sun dress, or a blouse and skirt or jeans. Do keep in mind that you will be walking a lot, so sneakers are the best shoe choice. Also be sure to get a good amount of sleep the night before your visit to ensure you don’t look exhausted when you arrive on campus.
3. Ask everyone questions
Take advantage of being on campus by asking questions to as many people as possible. The faculty, your tour guide, and other students are all good candidates who are usually happy to help. If someone from your high school or a family member is currently attending the college, reach out to them as well! Some questions to ask include:
- What type of student would thrive at this college?
- What’s one thing you wish you knew about the university before you came here?
- How do you feel about the surrounding town/city?
- How do you feel about the dorms/food?
- What clubs/groups are there on campus?
- What academic support does the school offer?
4. Take notes about everything
While you’re learning about a college, jot down important information your tour guide mentions as well as your own thoughts on the school. Details are easily forgettable, and it’s important to take in and remember as much as possible from your touring experience. The most important thing to remember aren’t the facts about the college; these can be looked up later. The important thing to note is how you feel about the college.
Once you’ve toured more than three colleges, everything blurs together. You’ll also want to use your notes to make decisions about what your top college is or even which one you want to attend. It’s easy to forget important details that may decide your future, especially if you tour colleges before senior year, so don’t forget to write it all down.
5. Set aside some extra time to explore
After your official tour, give yourself some extra time to explore the campus by yourself. Check out the student center or eat at the cafeteria. If possible, explore the town(s) the college is in or near as well, since you’ll likely spend a lot of time there if you enroll.
6. Make a list of every tour you take
After your college tours, put together a list including all the schools you’ve visited and rate your experience and other factors, such as tuition, acceptance rate, distance from home, size, location, student-faculty ratio, etc. An Excel spreadsheet is easy to assemble and keep up with. You can even use your notes from each tour to fill it in.
7. Go virtual
As someone who's interested in a lot of colleges that are a plane ride away, I know traveling to all of them is simply not possible. Schools at the top of your list should be a priority to visit in person, but for ones lower on your list, it’s okay to take a virtual tour instead. You can also do both! Traveling is very difficult, time consuming, and expensive these days, so don’t feel bad about not being able to visit all your schools of interest.
Even if you haven't toured any colleges yet, don’t stress. Tours are for your benefit—not the college’s. Though campus visits are a great opportunity to show demonstrated interest, the important thing is to find the right fit for you. Make the most of any college tour you go on, and don’t forget to have fun!
Wondering what schools offer online visit options? Start with our big list of CollegeXpress Featured Colleges With Virtual Tours.