Last Updated: Jul 14, 2016
We go on campus visits and college tours because we want to learn more about the schools that interest us and because they’re one of the best ways to see if the school is the right choice… But we also go to please our parents, because all our friends are doing it, because we just happened to be in the area, and because our high school organized a trip.
In any case, you may find yourself on a college visit and/or tour sometime soon. If you’ve never been before, you probably have plenty of ideas about what it will be like. But here are some things about campus visits that may surprise you…
You could fall in love with a college you hated
The scenario: You really don’t like [insert college your parents are forcing you to “at least look at!”].
The surprise: You could end up falling in love! With the school, of course. (But there will probably be a new John Green book about two college-searching teens falling in love on a campus visit after the publication of this article.)
Maybe it will be the atmosphere or the people. Maybe it will just “feel right” when you arrive on campus. Regardless of where the lightning strikes, you might be shocked by how much you love an out-of-left-field college. Just go into the tour with a semi-permeable mind and listen to your guide. (But also remember you’re seeing the best parts of a college on their tours, so make sure you really get to know the school better after you get home!)
Or you could hate a college you loved
The scenario: You’re visiting your dream school. Like, literally, ever since you were nine years old, you dreamt of hanging out with the college mascot.
The surprise: So, you love this school because…why, exactly? If it’s solely based their famous reputation or the pretty pictures you’ve seen online or even their adorable mascot, you could be sorely disappointed when you get there in person.
It’s fully possible to go on a tour of your “dream” college and realize it’s absolutely not what you wanted after all. Whether it’s the general campus vibe or the location, there’s a lot you can’t get by looking at those pretty brochures. Seeing is believing, and that especially applies to college touring!
You'll talk to current students—and enjoy it
The scenario: You're scared to ask any of the college students you see any questions, because you’re a measly high schooler and you don’t want to bother anyone.
The surprise: College students are usually super nice and want to help you! Don’t be afraid of them. They were in your position once not too long ago, and you might be a classmate of theirs soon, so don’t be surprised by how willing they are to stop and chat with you.
If you want a no-holds-barred opinion about the college, ask the person waiting in line with you at the campus coffee shop. If you are lost, ask the guy sitting in the library for directions. And if someone is rude to you? Well, they’re just rude.
You won't get special treatment
The scenario: You're ready to ask your tour guide nitty gritty questions that are only applicable to you and have them take you to every corner of campus you want to see. It’s your campus visit, isn't it?
The surprise: Okay, no disrespect, but if you go into your campus visits ready to treat your tour guide like your personal college Sherpa, you're gonna have a bad time. Your college tours won’t be all about you, and though you definitely should ask questions about the school, they can’t be about your specific college application, if your SAT scores are “good enough,” or if the dining hall makes scrambled eggs the way you like them.
In all likelihood, you’ll go on your college tours with several other families and only one tour guide. This means the tour guide won’t be able to cater to your every need—and you don’t want to be the student who tries that anyway. Want to see the view from the third floor of the upperclassman dorms? Want to visit the engineering building’s closet for light bulbs? Chances are, your guide will not be able to escort you to your requested destination if it won’t appeal to the interests of the others in your tour. But if you ask nicely, you might be able to take a detour to a more universal destination, like a rehearsal space or an academic building. And if not, after the tour is over, your tour guide can probably at least show you the way to these places.
You can use your phone
The scenario: You decide to put you phone away, because you’re pretty sure you read—right here on CollegeXpress—that it’s rude to have it out.
The surprise: Actually, it’s okay to have your phone out to take pictures and notes. As long as you don’t pull out an overbearing selfie stick or obnoxiously type with your volume up, you’ll be fine. But that being said, don’t get so distracted by your phone that you forget to listen and engage in the tour!
Here are four more things you should not be surprised by on your campus visits:
- The college admission 101 spiel. You’ll probably hear the same things about applying (deadlines, structure, etc.) at every other school you visit. But helpful and unique information might be hidden in all those words, so don’t space out.
- The walking. You’ll do more walking than you think and will get thirsty. Depending on the school, you might also walk outside, so check the weather before the tour. Make sure you wear walking shoes and sensible clothes, and bring sunglasses and water.
- The complainer. You’ll probably end up in a tour group with a prospective student or parent who has zero interest in being there. Why? Well, just listen to them muttering under their breath about how miserable they are long enough to find out. Who knows why are they even touring the school; that’s not for you to worry about. Don’t let these doubters bring you down. Ignore them and try to distance yourself from them so the tour guide doesn’t think you’re joining their pity party.
- The feels. You’ll feel excited/nervous/worried/stressed about college during your campus tour—and probably even more so after.
College visits: Do them now instead of later. Ask lots of questions. And don’t get caught by surprise. Have fun out there, y'all.