College

Getting the Most Out of Your College Visit

A campus visit shouldn’t be taken lightly- you may only get to visit once before you decide to call a university home! Here’s a crash course on how to get the most out of a campus tour.

By: Amanda Cross

If you’re a junior or senior (maybe even a sophomore or an ambitious freshman!), you’ve probably thought a lot about the colleges you might like to attend, and maybe even made a list of schools you want to visit in person. A campus visit shouldn’t be taken lightly- you may only get to visit once before you decide to call a university home! Here’s a crash course on how to get the most out of a campus tour.

Pre-Tour:

Plan your tour ahead of time, and schedule it with the Admissions Office. Showing up unannounced on campus and expecting a full, guided tour to be arranged just for you is probably not the best move. Keep in mind that Mondays and Fridays are the busiest tour days, so you might want to aim for mid-week.

What To Wear:

A campus visit is not the time to prioritize looking stylish over being practical. Having a general idea of what the weather will be like during your visit is crucial- take a look at the forecast for the school you will be visiting so you can prepare for whatever Mother Nature throws your way. Keep your outfit simple- you may also want to bring weather-appropriate accessories such as a rain jacket and umbrella or a hat and gloves. If it’s sunny out, make sure to wear sunscreen. Since you will likely be walking, stick with tennis shoes for the most comfort.

PRE-Tour Checklist:

Create a list of questions you need to have answered and the “must-haves” you’re looking for in a college before going on a campus tour. Here’s a few ideas of what your list could include:

  • On-campus housing
  • Greek life
  • Fitness center/ gym
  • Option to have a car on campus
  • Safety measures on campus
  • Diversity
  • Study abroad opportunities
  • Co-op and work study programs

What to Do:

On the Tour:

Give the tour guide your undivided attention, and try to stay focused- they have a strict schedule for you to follow so you can hit all the highlights of campus. Ask plenty of questions, observe student interactions, learn about the campus culture and traditions, and note how the actual campus compares to their website or brochures.

On Campus:

After your official campus tour, go explore on your own for a while. This is your chance to check out any parts of campus you didn’t get to see on the tour. Check out the cafeteria, and take a look at the housing options. Don’t be afraid to talk with current students, faculty, and staff- they’re more than likely happy to answer any questions you have. Some colleges offer you the opportunity to sit in on a lecture- take this opportunity! If you have time, explore the surrounding city. Check out the local scene and see if you think you’d really like living there.

Post-Tour:

It’s time to evaluate the school. Do this as soon as possible, so you don’t forget anything. Write your thoughts and observations down in a notebook, or record them with the voice memo app on your phone. Take some time to really analyze how you’ll fit in with the university. Talk with your parents, teachers, and friends about the school- their opinions are valuable, and they know you better than anyone. Then, apply if you’ve decided it’s the right one for you!

Tour Tips for Parents:

Your baby is going off to college, and you might be panicking a little. Attending a campus tour with your child might help put your mind at ease, and will give you a general idea of the environment they’ll be in. However, there’s protocol to be followed to make sure you get the information you need without being #totallyembarassing.

Plan ahead. Before taking a campus tour, discuss with your student the kind of information you’re both hoping to get. Ask them what they’re looking for in a school, or what they’re unsure of. This will give them an idea of what questions to ask.

Let your kid take the wheel. We know it’s hard, but this is their time to be in charge. Let them ask most of the questions- they’re the ones who need to really feel the school out and see if it’s going to be a good fit. Try to take a backseat approach, being observant and taking notes along the way. If they forget to ask an important question you can chime in, but avoid speaking for them.

Be supportive. Wait for your child to express their feelings about the school before voicing your opinion. Once they have initiated the conversation, ask about their likes and dislikes, and share your observations with them. Try to avoid being overly negative- the decision of where to attend college is ultimately theirs, and they’ll know when they’ve found the right fit.

Amanda is the founder of “The Happy Arkansan”, a millennial lifestyle blog focused on helping students succeed in college and in life. Amanda uses the knowledge she has obtained getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees to help students decode academics, student involvement, and more. You can follow her on Instagram at @thehappyarkansan and check out her website thehappyarkansan.com.

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