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The 4 Important Questions To Ask on Your College Tour

  • Student Tips
Joanna HughesFeb 18, 2016

Planning to attend college in the next few years? If so, you’re probably juggling a million different things. Preparing for college admissions tests, researching prospective schools, and filling out admissions and financial aid paperwork all take time and effort -- and that’s all on top of your regular schoolwork, too! Do you ever feel like a change of scenery? Well, we’ve got the perfect destination in mind: A college campus tour! From bustling urban epicenters to rural retreats, university campuses offer a diversity of things to do -- all of which can help you narrow down your list of potential colleges. While evaluating your options can in itself be overwhelming, these four “must ask” questions can help you make an informed decision. 1. What was your first year like? In today’s digital age, it’s easy to find basic information about universities and their programs. Just head to each prospective college’s website and let your fingers do the walking. However, what’s not as accessible is a real student’s insight into life on campus. Because college tours are usually student-led, each tour offers the perfect opportunity to glean first-hand information about life on campus. After all, campus tour guides aren’t just people who are really good at walking backward; they also have a keen understanding of day-to-day life on campus. Another common question many tour guides wish they were asked? “Why did you choose this school?” Asking what they fell in love with -- not to mention whether their experiences so far have delivered on their expectations -- can be particularly insightful. Remember, tour guides have not only gone through the same thing you’re going through now, but they’ve presumably emerged a bit wiser on the other side. 2. What is the balance between theory and practice in your classes? Again, you can look at the course catalog to find a list of classes. Tour guides, however, offer an up-close and personal look at the academic side of things. While this question may seem hard-hitting for a campus tour, it’s also one of the most revealing -- particularly when compared to the easier, more subjective, “What is the average course like?” In addition to being pertinent to your own learning style and preferences, the answer to this question may also deeply impact your future. If you’re considering graduate school, a firm theoretical foundation may be necessary while if you’re job market-bound, the importance of real-world experience cannot be overstated. (On a related note, be sure to schedule in a lecture or two while you’re on campus to see for yourself.) 3. Have you used the school’s academic and career resources? According to a survey from UCLA, employment rates trail only academic reputation when it comes to influencing students toward one college or another. And while you may feel like the job hunt is a long time in the future, take the word of any recent college grad: it will be here before you know it. The more you know about these offerings in advance, the more likely you are to use them when you matriculate. Are these services available? Adequate? Accessible? In addition to career services, other important student resources include academic advising and study abroad offices. 4. Do I feel at home here? This question isn’t for the tour guide, but for you, and it’s one to keep in mind as you explore the campus. Why? Because at the end of the day, all of the research and external information in the world won’t tell you how you’ll feel when you walk onto a college campus for the first time. In addition to giving you a better sense of what each campus is like, a tour will give you a very clear feeling of how you might fit in there. Do the students around you look like they’re having fun? Can you imagine yourself spending time in the spaces and places you see? Asking related questions about everything from the food to where students hang out to clubs and campus activities can help you get a better sense of whether you’d actually enjoy spending time here. After all, four years is a long time -- wouldn’t it be better to be in an environment where you feel at home? While it’s easy to get caught up in paperwork during your college selection process, it’s equally -- if not more -- important to see prospective colleges for yourself. And just as you wouldn’t walk into a big test without preparing in advance, nor should you show up for a college tour without knowing what to ask in order to make the most of your visit. These four questions can get you off to a smart start!

Joanna Hughes

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.