A college tour is one of the best ways to check out a prospective college campus. You can not only view the campus but also ask questions and get a real feel for the vibe of the grounds. You can even try out the college food in many cases.
However, a college tour is only as helpful as you make it. You must be prepared to ask questions. Doing some research and determining what is most important for your college experience will help you get the most out of your college tour.
Scheduling a tour is your first step. The process may seem simple, but it requires some forethought to schedule a tour that makes sense for your situation.
A college’s viewbook or website can only tell you so much about the school. Visiting the school will allow you to get a better feel for what the college will be like day in and day out. You are going to be spending a lot of time on campus, so you need to be sure that it is the right fit for you.
On a college tour, you can often have the following experiences:
All of these experiences will ultimately help you determine which of your list of potential colleges is going to make sense for you.
Your visit will help you get a feel for the vibrancy and character of the college. It also allows you to view the facilities firsthand and talk to people that you might see on campus, from fellow students to professors.
A college tour also often has a question-and-answer session that can be very useful. This inside information from admissions or a current student can help you understand the school on a deeper level. You can ask what to expect in your first year or whether the food is any good.
Ultimately, a college tour will help you refine your list of top schools—some will just “feel” right, and others won’t.
Scheduling a college campus tour may seem straightforward. However, you actually want to go about it in a way that will give you the most return on your time and effort investment.
In general, you do not want to only visit one school. Having several visits will help you compare and contrast what each school has to offer. You may be surprised to learn just how different the environment at one school may be compared to another.
As you consider which schools to visit, you might want to ask yourself the following general questions.
It might be helpful to visit several colleges with different characteristics to get a feel for each type.
For example, visiting a small, medium, and large campus will help you determine which size might be a good fit for you. You might walk onto a huge campus and decide it is too overwhelming. Or you might visit a small campus and realize there aren’t enough options to meet your needs. The best way to determine what your reaction may be is to test out the environment.
There is no magic number for schools you should visit. However, visiting more than one is a good way to compare your options. Visiting too many schools can make the process feel overwhelming.
Once you have developed a list of schools to visit, you should contact the admissions department at each school. Every school has a slightly different method for scheduling their college tours. For instance, some schools only offer group tours, while other schools may provide one-on-one visits.
Although you can sometimes schedule a campus tour online, it might be a good idea to reach out directly to admissions. By talking to an actual person, you can make specific requests about your tour.
For example, you can specifically ask to see the science building or the soccer fields if that is important to you. Ensuring the school has the right information about you can make your visit more productive.
Some schools have designated times for visits. Others are a lot more flexible. If you are interested in a group session, many schools offer open houses or visit days. In some cases, you might want to start with a group session and then come back for another visit if you want more specific information.
It is often more productive if you can do a visit in the middle of the school year instead of over the summer. Visiting while classes are in session will give you a better idea of what the environment will be like once you start classes.
Be sure that you leave yourself plenty of time for your visit. On average, most college tours are around two hours in total. However, you want to ensure that you can take your time with the experience. Rushing through the process will not be helpful for your college search in the long run.
Once you are on campus for your tour, you should find the admissions office to check-in. Some large events will have signs or other information pointing you in the right direction. If you have a small group or a personalized tour, you might not have that advantage. Most colleges will give you information about where admissions is located or how to check in once you arrive.
In group tours, you will often get a name tag and packet of information about the school. You might also get some materials to take notes. College visits often start with a larger group session and then break into smaller groups for a campus tour.
Of course, every college is different, and the type of tour you have scheduled will affect what you will do on your tour.
The college tour itself should not cost anything. However, there are some other costs that you should consider. For example, if the college is farther away, you may need to pay for lodging and transportation expenses.
You might also want to consider these additional costs.
If you decide to apply during your visit, you might also need to pay college application fees and related expenses.
Some colleges have discounts they offer prospective students for lodging or travel expenses. Parking passes or free event information might also be available. Talk with admissions before your visit to ask about these potential cost savings measures.
If you are going on a scheduled tour and meeting professors and admissions, you should dress accordingly. That means that you want to look presentable without going over the top. Nice jeans or business casual dress will generally work well in most cases.
Be sure that you wear good shoes for walking so you can enjoy the campus tour.
You can do as many as you want, but traveling the country for visits can be time-consuming and expensive. It is a good rule of thumb to do at least two college visits. But, three or four might be a good idea if you have that many schools on your list of potential options.
Most schools will allow non-students to visit their campus. However, especially in light of health and safety concerns, there may be restrictions on access to certain parts of campus. If you want to check out a specific building, including the dorms, buildings where classes will be held, and library, it is a good idea to schedule a tour ahead of time.
Technically, you don’t have to prepare anything before your visit. However, if you want to get the most out of your time, it is a good idea to prepare a little bit ahead of time.
High Point University offers a helpful college tour checklist that you can use to develop questions to ask your tour guide and more. It will help you start thinking about what is important to you in your college experience.