Student Life

What to Look for Off-Campus During your College Tour

It's not just what's on campus that counts.

Student Contributor, Allison Willrich

February 15, 2022

Even if you live on-campus, you'll still be out and about off-campus. Here is what you should look for on your campus, and city or town, tour.
What to Look for Off-Campus During your College Tour
Touring a college campus is a quintessential part of the college application process. In my previous article, "College-Visit Tips From a Campus Tour Guide", I discussed what to look for during a campus tour. However, many applicants focus so much on the campus, they forget to tour the surrounding area to get a feel for the location they will be living in for their college years. If you want to get the most out of your college experience, look beyond the school. Here are the top 6 things you need to look for in your future home away from home.

Student Needs

What kind of student are you? And what are your needs? When choosing a college, you consider your interests and its available resources. Similarly, you need to take into account your learning preferences and how to achieve them in this new environment. Do you enjoy studying in silence or do you prefer the hustle and bustle in a coffee shop? How would you like to spend your free time? Working out? Getting boba? Going to the movie theatre? Whatever it is, explore where and how it can be found in your new neighborhood. Your needs and wants should be factored in when planning this next step in your life.

Local Community

It's important to surround yourself with a welcoming and safe community where you’ll get the support you need to thrive. To ensure this, tour not only your potential college campus, but also its neighborhood. Explore the very place you’ll spend the next few years. Get a feeling for the community and style of living, both through observation and asking questions! Don’t be afraid to ask students or other people in the area what living there is like. Questions to ask current students include: “What is the student culture like?” “Do people stay on campus for the weekends or does everyone hang out off-campus?”
Topics that can be discussed with either students or other people in the area include: “How safe do you feel in this city?” “What are some local activities that I should know about?”

Study Spaces

Imagine your ideal learning or studying spot. Do you find yourself in the library, somewhere outside, or in a coffee shop? Identify what that space looks like for you and create it. You’ll likely need to find a cozy spot off-campus to be productive or to have study groups for a change of pace. I recommend exploring the local coffee shops; cafes truly become safe havens for college students!

Going Out on the Town

There will be moments when you feel stir-crazy in your dorm and need to have some fun. “Fun” is different for everybody, but I recommend checking out some restaurants, seeing if there are community events or local activities that are special to that area, and checking if any places offer student discounts. Another aspect to consider is transportation. Is the area easily walkable? If not, is there easy access to public transportation? How will this affect you?

Places to Work

Finding a job is a must for many college students to finance their education, buy textbooks, and afford social activities. Every place is different when it comes to obtaining employment. Some cities are more competitive than others. Despite its importance, the majority of prospective students don’t consider how they will go about finding work until they are already on campus. First, ask a campus tour guide or any student if there are on-campus employment opportunities, which can be very convenient and accommodating since they understand you are a student with a hectic schedule. These opportunities can be limited, creating the need to look elsewhere. When you are exploring the different local businesses in the area, it would be smart to look for possible employment options by observing the amount of employees the locations have, how big the city is, asking current students, or just looking it up online!

Self-Care

Again, this is very individualized, but very important to figure out. Perhaps this includes finding a new nail salon, hair salon, or barbershop. Or looking for nearby parks, walking trails, hiking/biking trails, etc. And it’s always beneficial to have any private place you can go to if you need alone time, especially if you have roommates. Make time for anything that recharges you, whether it’s exercising, meditating, dancing, listening to music, going out, or staying in! The college you choose is more than just a school. It’s your home, your community, and the foundation of your future. At the end of the day, it is most important that you find a place where you can fulfill your needs and flourish. And of course, remember to stay hopeful and have fun during this process!

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