College tours are an exciting time in a high schooler’s life. They can also be a whirlwind of information. From tuition costs to program options, there’s a lot of information to digest. Then, choosing a college determines a large part of your future. You’ll always be part of that alumni network. The connections you make at college can last a lifetime. On top of that, you’re going to college to get an education, which will inform you as you pursue a particular career path. That’s a lot to think about.
Going on college tours can be helpful when you’re up against such a tough decision, but it can be easy to lose focus. When you’re exposed to new campuses and new people, you have to know what you’re looking for to find the right fit. Read this article to learn seven ways to make the most out of your tours and make an informed decision.
- Prepare Before the Tour
Sometimes students tour a prospective university because they’ve put a lot of research into what the college offers. Other times, students attend the college tour because a parent or grandparent signed them up. Either way, take the time to get to know the university for yourself. Doing your research before the tour will allow you to be better prepared for what’s to come.
Not to mention, you’ll know what questions to ask. College tours go by quickly. It could be helpful to utilize a college visit checklist. This can ensure you see everything you’re curious about and talk to the right people. You’ll want to make the most of your time with the individuals you’re meeting with. Bring a list of questions with you that you want answered by the time you leave campus. This will help you utilize your time on campus efficiently.
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- Visit Offices on Campus
You can learn a lot about a university based on their office workers. Staff usually enjoy chatting with students, and prospective students can learn a lot about the university by talking with employees. Visit the career center, diversity and inclusion office, and student involvement. These offices tend to provide a lot of resources for students, and they can provide you with helpful information.
These offices are important because you will likely be spending a lot of time with their programming. They can answer questions about what type of professional development resources and events are available. They can tell you about student groups to get involved with. The staff in these departments will be wonderful resources for you throughout your college experience.
- Meet with Faculty
Whether you know what your major will be or not, it’s important to get a feel for the type of courses you’ll be taking. Most importantly, you should try to find who you’ll be taking them with. Most faculty love to talk about their discipline, and share their passion with potential new students. Visiting faculty will give you an opportunity to see classrooms in the buildings you’ll be spending a lot of your time in.
If you don’t know what you want to major in, faculty can be a great resource to learn about different options. While you’re there, ask professors about experiential learning opportunities. College’s opportunities vary. Ask about study abroad, internships, research, and first year programs. Learn what opportunities are available to you inside and outside of the classroom. You’ll likely value the opportunity of experiential learning.
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- Understand the Culture
You’re going to spend 2-4 years at your university. It’s important that you enjoy the culture of the campus. Consider what is important to you in a university’s culture. Are you looking for a tight-knit campus, a large institution, a D1 athletic environment? Do you want to be a part of a fraternity or sorority?
Some of these things will be obvious before you step foot on campus. Chatting with current students as you walk around campus will help you fill in the blanks. You’ll want to be able to get a feeling about whether or not the campus seems inviting. The welcoming (or unwelcoming) culture of a university can truly make or break your college experience. You want to ensure you feel like you fit in and belong.
- Assess Accessibility and Inclusion
It’s important to note whether or not a university values inclusivity and accessibility when you’re touring. If you’ll need any accommodations while attending university, you’ll want to make sure they’re willing and able to provide them. From wheel-chair ramps and elevators to counselors and accessibility offices, note they’re resources.
If you’re a first-generation student looking for additional support, you might see if they have a TRIO or Upward Bound program. If you’re a minority student, make sure there’s a safe space on campus. Address concerns with the university, as they should value your success and well being. Visiting the office of student support services can often help you answer these questions.
- Embrace Your New Home
This new city is about to become your home. Without a doubt, you want to like the space where you are living. Ask to tour a dorm, if it’s not already included in your visit. Consider if you want a solo bathroom or community bathrooms. How many roommates are you willing to have? What is most important to you in your new living space?
Remember to visit the city around you. You won’t spend every second of your day on campus. Visit a local restaurant. Map out how close you are to a grocery store or Target. It’s important that you enjoy the city just as much as the campus.
- Take Notes and Pictures
Pulling onto campus for the first time can be scary or exciting. But no matter what you do to fit in, it will be obvious you’re on a campus tour. Let down your pride and lean into it. Take notes and pictures to remember your visit. Tours are a whirlwind, and you’re taking in a lot of information at once.
Not to mention, if you’re touring multiple campuses, they can start to blend together. All of the useful information you receive during your visit will inevitably disappear as soon as you drive off campus. You’ll be thinking “Wait. What did financial aid say about my scholarship? I can’t remember when admissions said the enrollment deadline was!”
Pull out your piece of paper lined with quality questions and hit the road. Make the most out of your campus visit by slowing down, asking questions, and taking in the scenery around you. And, good luck with your applications!