Visiting colleges for the first time can be overwhelming, especially as a high schooler who may not know what to look for. It’s hard to know what features matter to you when choosing a college. Sometimes you won’t know what you value until you experience it firsthand.
That’s one reason a college tour is so important. And the more you prepare, the more value you’ll get out of that experience. Continue readings to learn about what questions you should ask while taking a college tour. They should reveal more about campus and academic life.
What programs are the most popular?
By now, you hopefully have an inkling of an idea about which direction you want to go with your studies. Ask the guide on your college tour what subjects are considered strengths of the school to see if they resonate. For example, if you are art-oriented, a science-focused school is less likely to provide an ideal academic environment for you.
If the school does have good programs for you, then inquire about them. This is the best time to learn about the school’s offerings and compare them to your educational goals. Multiple schools may offer the program you’re interested in, but you should compare their resources. Two universities can have nursing programs, but if one has outdated equipment or fewer graduates, it might not be your best option.
What are the food options on campus?
Many schools require incoming freshmen to be on the school’s meal plan, but dining halls often vary in quality. A tour is your chance to get a firsthand opinion from a student about said quality and other local options. They can tell you which dining halls are most convenient, what times are crowded, and the best spot to get a late night snack.
Your guide may even advise you on what foods are popular or should be avoided. While bad food options shouldn’t necessarily be the reason you choose different schools, they’re important to be aware of. If you’re choosing between two close options, it might be a deciding factor.
What are common complaints students have?
Similarly, you’ll want to get information on general complaints that students tend to have about the college you’re visiting. Despite what the school’s marketing will tell you, it’s impossible for everything to be perfect. Public relations rarely make a note of less popular aspects of student life, while students themselves won’t shy away from it.
You might learn about inconvenient class locations, neglected facilities, or unpopular rules, which you couldn’t know otherwise. Asking a student is the best way to get a more realistic view of your potential day-to-day life there. It might even save you from needing to transfer.
What’s the average class size?
Class sizes don’t seem like a big deal at first thought, but they will undoubtedly affect what you get from them. Do you learn better in large, broad, lecture-style classes or in more intimate discussion groups about specific topics? Take note of the classrooms you tour and converse with your guide to get a good idea of what is common.
This can also help you glean more about the size and goals of the institution as a whole. Larger classes are great for more detail-oriented subjects and smaller classes can turn an arts topic into a riveting discussion. Think about what you value and where you’d be most comfortable.
Is Greek life popular?
Greek life is a long-running establishment in the United States and can be quite popular, depending on the school. Your tour guide can give you more information on its prevalence, housing, and the school’s relevant policies. From there you can decide if you’re interested or would prefer a school with more or less prominent organizations.
You may hear or have heard that you’ll need to join a fraternity or sorority to have a social life. That ultimately depends on the school, but don’t let it affect your choice too much. It’s not necessarily true; you can always create a social life regardless.
How important are the sports programs?
If sports are something you’re interested in, then now is the time to inquire. Do you want a school with a lot of spirit and excitement for its teams? Would you prefer it to be less of a focus? Your tour guide can inform you how important the college football team is or if there isn’t one at all.
Remember, you don’t have to be an athlete or in a Division I school to get involved with sports programs. Many colleges offer intramural sports, which allow students to get together just to play the game. There’s still competition, but you’re not representing the university.
How is student housing?
The quality of student housing options can tell you a lot about the school’s funding and focus on student life. Students often live in the dorms full-time. Ask your guide if dorms differ in quality. You might also note their distances to class buildings and dining halls.
This information is imperative for when you decide on a school and choose a dorm for the semester. If you know what you want, you can get your choice quickly and get ahead of the selection process. You probably don’t want to be placed in a dorm farthest from your classes with communal bathrooms and four roommates. But you might. Everyone values a different college experience.
Do you recommend any specific class or professor?
Get the most out of the semester by knowing classes and professors you’re interested in before enrollment begins. This can mean applying early to high-demand specialty courses or choosing required ones taught by well-loved professors. Your tour guide can help you with these nuances and introduce you to exciting, out-of-the-box options that others might not know.
The type of class options a school provides represents its academic values. If you’re looking at a liberal arts college, they may value more interdisciplinary thinking. If you’re looking at a technical university, you might walk away with practical, hands-on skills. Each option has something to offer, but you have to know what you value.
Next time you tour a school, have these questions ready to go. By doing so, you’ll come away with a lot more exciting information than you may have otherwise. Hopefully, knowing more details about your options can help you choose the right fit. Then having realistic expectations can make your first year of college a truly enjoyable one.