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College-Visit Tips From a Campus Tour Guide

The worst thing you can do is to NOT ask questions.

Get seven, student and parent tips to use on your next campus tour. Our student contributor gives an inside look into what you should do, the questions to ask, and other things to look for during your visit.
College-Visit Tips From a Campus Tour Guide
Touring a campus is one of the most exciting parts of the college application experience, so here are my tips on making the most out of your visit! From preparation to post-visit reflection, here is some of the best advice I can give you as a campus tour guide!

Tip #1 - Bring water and dress comfortably.

Touring a college campus is essentially a mini hike, so prepare accordingly. You can even ask the admissions office about what the weather is like if you aren’t familiar with the area’s climate.

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You’ll be absorbing a lot of information and exploring a new atmosphere, so comfort is key to have an enjoyable experience.

Tip #2 - Prepare as many questions as you can.

Ask your tour guide the things you can’t Google! Take advantage of the opportunity to meet with a student that can give you honest insight into what your college experience could be like. Every student tour guide I’ve met has been really honest, so it’s nice to have an authentic student perspective.

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Good Questions to Ask:
  • What is the campus community/culture like?
  • What opportunities and experiences are unique to the school?
  • What is their fondest memory of their college experience?
  • What is something that surprised them about the college experience?
  • Is there anything they wish they knew prior to attending the school?

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The worst thing you can do is NOT ask questions. As tour guides, we really want to provide the best experience possible. The more details you give about yourself and the more questions you ask, the more the tour is personally tailored to you!

Tip #3 - Research the college ahead of time and see what interests you.

Your interests can be a major, club, sport, or even a nearby restaurant or tourist attraction. Even if you don’t think your tour guide has a personal connection, they will likely have friends they can share anecdotes about. I’m always impressed when a student knows what they are drawn to and can communicate that, so I give as much insight as possible.

Tip #4 - It’s okay to let your parents “embarrass” you.

Majority of the time, parents are super eager and more involved than the student. In my experience, it’s extremely common for the students to get annoyed with how many pictures their parents take, or how many details they want to know, or even how fast they walk. Let them be! They are excited for you and want to find the perfect school just as much as you do. I love when I have involved parents on my tours because they aren’t afraid to participate and learn! They also tend to ask valuable questions that students don’t think about such as campus safety, professional development opportunities, methods of transportation, etc.

Tip #5 - See what other experiences the school has to offer.

Explore as much as possible. Some schools will let you spend the night in a dorm, attend a class, eat a complimentary meal from the dining hall, or meet with a professor/coach/leader of whatever interests you. Try to immerse yourself into all aspects of the campus!

Tip #6 - Talk to the locals.

If you’re travelling to a new area, all the unique tourist attractions are fun to check out too. It can also be really valuable to either talk to a student or college employee who identifies as a local and get their perspective on the area. Try to find out what to do on weekends, what restaurants are the best, various hidden gems of the city, and whatever other advice they can give. This should help you figure out if you can actually enjoy all four years in the area, rather than just getting caught up by the exciting, one-and-done attractions you see during the initial visit.

Tip #7 - REFLECT ON YOUR VISIT AS SOON AS YOU LEAVE THE CAMPUS!

I recommend having a journal, or even just a section in your phone’s notes app, dedicated to your opinions on the schools you visit. Even if you’re only touring one campus for the day, the overload of information is difficult to retain. Things you should jot down include:
  • Statistics that stood out to you
  • Programs and opportunities that peaked your interest
  • Emotions you felt both on campus and in the surrounding area
It’s kind of like that show Say Yes to the Dress, when they ask if the dress “makes them feel like a bride” or if they can “envision themselves walking down the aisle” in it. Does the campus make you feel like a college student? Can you see yourself feeling comfortable in your dorm and studying in the library? It sounds over the top, but it does help with your decision making process. It’s also kind of fun to be dramatic.

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