It’s time! It’s finally time to start touring potential colleges! Whether you’re thinking about applying, or you already have, there is never a bad time to tour a college. The idea of finally stepping foot onto a college campus that you might call your home for the next four years is exhilarating and nerve-racking at the same time. To make sure you leave feeling like you got the most out of your visit, keep reading.
- Go on a guided tour (and a behind the scenes tour if possible)
Colleges employ and train certain students to give guided tours. These students will show you all the main hot spots on campus, whether it is a dining hall or the library. If you get a really good tour guide, they might even throw in a joke or two to make the experience that much better. These guides know almost everything about the perspective college. Ask away! By chance they don’t know the answer, the guides will point you in the direction of an administration building or point of contact that will know the answer. If you currently know a student attending the college, see if they will give you a “behind the scenes tour.” The tour guides will almost always bring you to the best buildings or newest residence halls that you’ll more than likely get put on a waitlist for. A close friend who isn’t working for the university will show you their favorite treasures about campus, best kept secret eateries, and the residence hall you’ll actually get as a first-year student.
- Visit the bookstore
Visit the bookstore now while you’re with your family! Not only will you walk away with some awesome college apparel bought by mom or dad, but this is most likely the last time you’ll be spending your hard-earned money on anything besides books.
- Talk to students
If you’re seriously thinking about a particular school, take time to talk to a few students on campus. See what their majors are, what type of clubs they’re involved in – anything! College kids like to talk about why they love their school, and their answers are always extremely unique. Who knows, you might even make a lifelong friend!
- Talk with faculty on campus
Making a first impression with a future professor goes a long way, and gives you insight into class culture that counselors or administrative staff may not be able to fully depict. It will also allow you to test-drive a potential major and answer any pending questions that will aid in your decision.
- Take notes
Usually, tours will hand out free swag bags, which may include some type of stationary and a pen! Use this to take notes about tuition prices, major options, residence hall styles, class sizes, and campus life. If you visit a bunch of colleges in a short period of time, they will start to blend together.
- Spend a night
Some colleges allow perspective students to spend a night if a current student will host them. Get a taste for what the campus feels like for an entire day. Simulate what it would feel like walking to classes or grabbing lunch. You’ll shortly see if that campus fits your specific needs and expectations. For example, if you had an 8am class, could you picture yourself walking across the entire campus? Do the dining halls cater to your dietary needs? This will give you the ultimate picture of that college’s life.
- Have an open mind and trust your gut
You’ll never know if you’ll love or hate a college until you step foot onto the campus. Perhaps you don’t fall in love with your parent’s alma mater and that’s okay! Maybe the college you swore you’d never be interested becomes your top pick! Look at all the options and follow your intuition. For example, when I was visiting colleges, I had a college tour one weekend in Pennsylvania and a flight down to Louisiana the following week. I fell in love with the school in Pennsylvania and decided to cancel the upcoming trip because I didn’t want to look any further. Looking back almost 5 years later, it was the best choice of my life, all because I followed my gut.