As fall approaches, high school seniors will start the college application process. In hopes of finding the right fit, they will review college rankings and reports, and leaf through student testimonials.
Most colleges insist that the best way to learn about their school is to "see it for yourself," by visiting the campus and attending a tour. To make the most out of your college tours, prepare your questions ahead of time. The following are a few of the suggested topics to cover.
One of the first things a college tour will cover is the application and admissions process for the school. During the informational session, an admissions officer will present statistics about the school and its student population, such as average SAT and ACT scores, percentage of students from out-of-state, etc.
College tours can provide an opportunity to ask an admissions officer about the personal essay required on the college's application. A couple of questions about the essay may help you to learn more about the college, whether it might be a good fit for you, and may give you some ideas for a strong essay.
According to "What to Look for on a Campus Visit," an article on the website Family Education, it is a good idea to ask how large average class sizes are for freshmen and upperclassmen. It is also advisable to find out if tutoring is available to students, how much it costs, and how easy it is to access.
In addition, now is the time to ask candidly how easy or difficult it is to get into the classes you are most interested in taking. The same goes for extracurricular activities. Ask if non-music majors can join the choir, or if there are intramural sports teams available on campus.
Understanding the housing situation helps a student imagine what life on campus is like. Ask the tour guide how many students live on campus, how many live in surrounding apartments, and how many commute from home. Make sure the tour guide brings you inside a dorm room, and notice if the floors are co-ed or separate.
If you are interested in joining a fraternity or sorority, ask about Greek life on campus and how many students are involved in it, the Family Education reporters suggest.
It's important to gain an understanding of the area surrounding campus and the amount of crime within school boundaries. College planning consultant Judith Christie recommends asking guides what walking around campus at night is like, and whether the college provides rides to students if they are out late and need to get back to their dorms.
It is also a good idea to ask about the type of security provided dorm entrances. Another very important question to ask is whether the school has an emergency notification system. Many colleges now inform students of an emergency situation by sending a text to the student's cell phone.
Questions Not Always Asked
Students sometimes shy away from asking the best questions on college tours, only to wish on the car trip home that they knew the answer. Here are a few of those questions, according to the U.S. News and World Report's "Questions to Ask on College Campus Tours," by Rebecca Kern.
While splitting up in tour guide groups, try to find a tour guide whose interests match yours. Often the tour guide will share her extracurricular activities and her selected major. Ask your tour guide what her college experience has been like in order to get a more personalized response than the previously rehearsed tour.
In addition, ask your guide why he chose the school, Kern advises. Don't be afraid to ask what your guide would like to see altered on campus as well, her research suggests. "Every school has great things about it, and every school has things that could maybe be improved," said Christopher Nowak, a tour guide quoted in Kern's article.
Finally, try to learn as much as you can about the community surrounding the campus and what it's like to live in the area. All things being equal, this could end up being an important factor in your choice of college.