College touring can be a scary time for any student, introverted or extroverted. It’s more than house hunting, it’s life hunting. In the times that you tour colleges, you are looking at the life that you want for the next four years, where you want to live, learn and socialize. So, prepare yourself to make the decision of a lifetime by making the most of your college touring experiences.
1. Do Your Research and Come Prepared
College tours are only as good as you make them. Research the school beforehand, and make a list of all the things you are curious about and any questions you might have. Make your list personal and compiled of things that you can’t find on the school's website but that could help you with your decision.
2. Plan a Personalized Tour
Many schools offer the opportunity to take an up-close tour. Essentially, this tour is a full day on campus that includes a tour, a class to sit in on and personal meetings with admissions counselors, faculty and students. These tours give you an in-depth image of what life on campus can be, and it allows you to ask the most qualified people the questions that would help you get to know the school.
3. Visit During the School Year
I know I’m writing this in the summer. I also know that it can be hard to take the time to visit schools when you have your own to attend. However, if at all possible to visit a school during the school year (especially during the week), take advantage. By visiting the campus when it is truly alive, you can get a better feel for the environment. Often, during the summer, campuses use the less busy time to enroll in construction and renovation projects. Also, many amenities may be closed or have limited hours (i.e. bookstore, dining facilities, etc.).
4. Visit the School Bookstore
Talk to bookstore employees. Tour guides and everyone who assist you during your planned tour is paid (or have volunteered) and have been trained to always talk about the institution in the best light possible. This is not to say that the information and answers they share are misleading or untruthful, but at least during my tours, I could tell when guides were giving the more popular responses rather than being openly candid. Bookstore employees, on the other hand, are typically students who are willing to candidly answer some of your questions.
5. Talk to an Admissions Counselor
Admissions counselors work to help students in your position. If you have any questions regarding the college application, cost of attendance or school resources, an admissions counselor can help you through the process and point you in the best way to move forward. Meet with an admissions counselor during your tour and get their information for future contact.
6. Sit In On a Class
This is normally included in an up-close tour, but I just had to mention it again. You are life hunting, but the reason you are hunting for this type of life is for education, so this should be a major influence on your college decision.
No class is the same. The one you sit in on could be a dud, while normally classes are more energetic. You could have come on the day of a boring lesson or assigned a class with a boring professor. Nevertheless, as crazy as it may seem, there’s more to a class than the content. Yes, the content is major, but you should also observe a class to measure your comfort (yes, in the seats), but also with the class size, environment and teacher availability.
7. Talk to a Student With Your Major and Interests
Always talk to students because they know what it’s like to be in your place, looking for a place to help them learn, grow and call home. However, talking to a student with your same major, especially if you have a distinct major, can truly help you to get behind-the-scenes information. These students can tell you from personal experience with classes, internships, job opportunities, clubs, activities, your estimated cost for textbooks and more.
8. Eat a Meal
It might seem crazy to judge a school based on its food, but the food is vital to your health and happiness. Make sure that the food you will be eating for the next four years will make you happy, healthy and comfortable.
9. Explore Outside the Campus
Get to know the surrounding area. Make sure that you like and feel comfortable in the town surrounding the campus. Also, see if anything outside the campus interests you for the days you want an adventure.
10. Buy Cheap Swag
I’ve mentioned above about buying a memento to remember the trip, but college bookstores can be expensive. To avoid paying $40 on a t-shirt or $80 on a sweatshirt, take a trip to the local Target or Walmart. If the school is large enough, you should be lucky to find these stores selling a selection of clothing and trinkets related to the school.
11. Get Your Application Fee Waived
Again, it’s all about asking questions. To my knowledge, most schools offer an application waiver for students who visit campus. However, if that was not explicitly advertised online, ask at the visitor center and you’d be surprised how they might help you.
12. Keep a Record of all Your Visits
If you’re visiting multiple schools, your memories of them are bound to overlap. So, keep a record of all the questions you ask and the answers you receive as well as impressions and thoughts.
What I did during my tours that immensely helped me was make a spreadsheet of all the schools I visited and all the questions I had to ask. After each tour, I would go home and update the spreadsheet with all the answers I got, my impressions of certain things and any other thoughts I had. If keeping a spreadsheet isn’t your style, keep a journal, video record or something of the sort. Keeping these notes will help you keep all your thoughts in order when it comes to making your final decision.
13. Ask Questions
Don’t be shy! Take it from me, an awkward, introverted gal, that asking questions is the most important part of the tour. Tour guides are there to help you through one of the toughest parts of choosing a college by answering your questions, soothing your uncertainties and informing you of the college’s opportunities. Compile a list of personal questions that you can’t find online, and you’ll be surprised by the genuine responses you receive.
Don’t forget to have fun! You are preparing to embark on an exciting journey towards your future, and college tours are the beginning of it all. Before you get stressed with college applications and senior year, enjoy the tours and get excited about your future.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash