To help determine whether a college is a good fit, make the most of your campus tour by asking key questions.
Anyone who’s been on a college tour knows first-hand just how overwhelming they can be: There’s a lot of information to take in during a short period of time. You want to determine whether the campus is a good fit. Whether you can picture yourself eating at the dining halls, living in the dorms, finding a work-study job (and oh yeah—going to class, too). It’s a whirlwind few hours, with a lot to cram in.
It’s important to let go of the stress: A college tour is a unique opportunity to gain perspective on a school from a current student. Your student tour guide is there to provide insight on their experience. They won’t judge you, and it’s not their job to evaluate whether you’d be a good fit for the school.
That being said, in order to full take advantage of your college visit, think about what insights a current student may have that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s not a good idea to ask questions that you could easily find answers to online. Remember, most schools offer information sessions before their tours. Bring a list of questions to the information session (U.S. News has a particularly useful one), and briefly jot down the answers and other unexpected insights.
Then, during your tour, think about what wasn’t covered in the information session. Don’t feel like you got a good understanding of the school’s financial aid system? Ask your student tour guide. Curious about what the dorms are like, or if everyone is required to have a random roommate? Ask your student tour guide. Overall, your guide is going to give you a more “real” perspective on how all the information you just learned actually impacts students.
Here are five questions that can help you learn the most from your college visit.
1. What's something that's surprised you about the university since you've attended?
A parent suggested this question, as it can be a good way to “get tour guides off of their script.” By asking a student tour guide about what surprised them, you invite them to share their own personal experience at the college, and you may learn something that wouldn’t be included on a brochure or during an information session. Answers can be very enlightening as to what the actual student experience is like versus the one advertised.
2. How does social life change throughout your four years at the university?
Social life and campus culture can be easy to overlook, but it’s an important factor at any university you look at, because it will determine what you do outside of academics. Asking how your college social life will change throughout your four years can give you a sense of the different social options offered at a particular university.
3. What is the percentage of students on financial aid?
While colleges want to share as much information as possible on the benefits offered through their financial aid programs, socioeconomic diversity is discussed less frequently. Knowing the percentage of students on financial aid will give you a good idea of what socioeconomic diversity is like at that college.
4. What's the four-year graduation rate?
According to the Huffington Post, it’s becoming less common for students to graduate from college in four years. At some colleges, it’s incredibly difficult to graduate in four years, due to class requirements for graduation. If the four-year graduation rate is high, then graduating in four years is likely the norm for students at that college. However, you don’t want to find yourself unexpectedly paying for a fifth and sixth year of college simply because most students at a particular college cannot graduate in four years.
5. How does demonstrated interest work at your university?
While student tour guides aren’t evaluating students on their tours for admission, many colleges track students’ demonstrated interest. In other words, if a student engages with a college by attending their information sessions and tours, many colleges will take that into account when making admissions decisions. It’s essential that students know when applying to universities which are tracking students’ demonstrated interest. According to the Huffington Post, if you are planning on touring at a college that tracks demonstrated interest, make sure that they take your name down. The best way to do this is by officially registering with the university for a tour and information session, and then making sure that you check in when you arrive.
Which questions have proved helpful during your campus visits? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
Kenia French is a rising junior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations and Environmental Studies. She became interested in education through writing an Investigative article on college affordability for the Tufts Daily.
Photo by Nottingham Trent University on Flickr.