You’ve just begun to investigate where to spend the most exciting four years of your life, and several schools have caught your eye. So, naturally, you want to visit! Visiting a college campus is somewhere in between a museum tour and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s an exciting chance to get a glimpse of your future life and just let your imagination run wild with the possibilities. However, it is also an educational opportunity, a time to take copious notes, and there probably won’t be any chocolate. As you set foot on the campus of what could be your future alma mater, here are some essential things to look out for and questions to ask:
As one of my student tour guides put it, “We all know this is where you’ll be spending the majority of college life.” While this of course depends on what classes you take, the library will most likely become a very familiar place for you. One thing I looked for on my visits is the three-level system, or something similar to it: first floor is a medium noise level, the second level has minimal noise, and the third floor is entirely silent—basically ensuring that there is a completely quiet area where you can go for really important studying. Does the library offer student tutoring? Are there group study rooms? Something I found helpful at one college was their technology room, which had all equipment necessary for movie projects and computers with advanced software programs.
If you’re planning to make athletics a major part of your four years, you’ll want to pay attention here. Is your sport of choice offered, and what kind of equipment and teams are available for it? Even if you’re not into sports, you’ll probably find yourself in the gym some time or another. Is there an adequate workout facility for your needs?
Some campus tours take you to a prepared dorm so you can get the feel of what will be in the room and how much space you’ll have. Dorms look pretty similar at all colleges, with most rooms holding two people. Some colleges also have “suite style,” which consists of two rooms connected by a bathroom, with four people living together. Either way, seeing dorms will probably make you appreciate your current private room at home!
We’ve all heard cafeteria food horror stories from our parents or older relatives. They may or not have been exaggerating, but campus food definitely is not the same as what our parents make. Most colleges have several meal plans you can choose from depending on how much and where you want to eat. Plans usually include a combination of meals from the college’s dining halls and some type of dining dollars that can be used at on-campus cafés, marketplaces, and national franchises such as Cosi or Chick-Fil-A. Pay attention as your group traverses the campus, as you will probably spot several food hotspots—maybe even your favorite snack place.
If your school of choice is in a rural environment, ask about the location. Are there restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, or any other favorite amusement activities nearby? Are there any special regional attractions in the area? What do the locals enjoy? Even with the multitude of clubs and activities that the school has, there is probably even more to do in the nearest town. If your college is in a city or suburban location, there are most likely a variety of places where students hang out, as well as tourist attractions.
Granted, you can always find a list of majors and minors on the college website. But the student guide will probably talk about what he or she is studying. If they don’t mention it, ask their opinion of the workload, how they handle the work, how much time they spend doing homework, etc. While the amount of work will fluctuate depending on your major and how many classes you end up taking, it is still a good idea to get firsthand information about academics that you won’t find on a website.
Another great piece of primary information normally comes at the end of the tour, when the guide will talk about why they chose this particular school. Think about their reason, and see if you have a similar feeling at the end of the tour. Can you see yourself there, like this student did?
Be sure to take notes during or immediately after your tour so you can compare the different features of each campus you visit. And let us know how your campus tours go on Facebook or Twitter!