Originally Posted: Oct 5, 2017
Last Updated: Mar 4, 2021
I will admit that college visits are terrifying. I stayed as close to my mom as I could on my first day of pre-school. Similarly, to a high school student visiting colleges, everything seems massive and intimidating—including the students. They all seem so much older and like they know all the ins and outs of campus. They had me thoroughly intimidated when I started visiting colleges. But, like I found in pre-school, most people were actually very reasonable and willing to help out a new face. So how do you talk to college kids? Here are some tips to help you build up your courage on your next campus tour.
Don’t be afraid of the age difference
When I first started visiting colleges, everyone looked so much older than me. This actually isn’t the case though if you think about it. As a high school junior or senior, almost all the college students will be no more than five years older than you. College freshmen and sophomores will likely only be a couple years ahead. You probably have at least one friend or sibling who is that much older (or younger) than you.
They aren’t supposed to scare you
Whether it’s your campus tour guide, a lunch buddy, or someone on a panel, that person was picked out of the entire student body to be one of your first experiences with that particular college or university. That school wants to put its best foot forward, so they will likely try to pick the nicest and friendliest students they can to help you on a campus tour. It is their job to make you want to go there, not to give you nightmares.
Ask all your questions
On your campus tour, ask all your questions—we mean it. Ask all of them. Not only will you learn even more about your potential school, but you will also break any awkward silences. No matter how uncomfortable you are during those silences, the tour guide is even more so, so don’t be afraid to speak up. They're meant to be there to answer all your questions, so take advantage of the open invitation.
Talk to a random student
If you see a student just idly sitting on a bench not doing much, go up and ask to talk to them. I know this sounds as fun as pulling teeth, but if you explain that you are a potential student, they will probably relate to your quest and answer your questions about the school and student life. Remember that just a few years ago, they were much like you. Plus, your tour guide will probably just point out the positives of the campus (since their job is to make you fall in love with the school), but an average student is more likely to tell you about both the good and bad.
Wear your interests on your sleeve
If you own a shirt with your favorite band or TV show, I suggest wearing it on your campus tour, especially if you are staying overnight with a student as part of your visit. (Rooming with a complete stranger sounds awful, I know, but it’s something you might have to do in the future anyway!) The best thing to do is find common ground so that you can have something to talk about as opposed to lying in awkward silence all night. If they share a love for what your shirt is promoting, you have an instant icebreaker. Even if you don’t intend to stay the night, seeing how students react to your interest may give you extra insight into the school and its students that you would not have otherwise had.
College students are your best resource for learning what a school is really like on college tours. Don’t be afraid of them! You’re going to be one of those college students before you know it, so why wouldn’t you want to talk to someone who represents your future self. Use these tips to help calm your nerves so you can take in every moment of your exciting campus tours.