Are you going on a tour of any colleges or universities any time soon? Make the most of it by doing your research beforehand and knowing exactly what you want to get out of your experience on the campus. Here are 10 essential questions you can ask on your tour that may help you determine if the school is a good fit for you.
If you’re in the midst of the college admissions process and are wondering how to determine if a school is a good fit for you, you’ve probably heard that you’ll have a “gut feeling” once you step onto the right campus for the first time. While that can be true in some situations, the process by which you narrow down your college list should consist of thorough research, evaluating your own academic and extracurricular priorities, and assessing your or your family’s financial capabilities, in addition to this lucky gut feeling. Knowing what questions to ask your tour guide and other school representatives when you’re visiting will give you a fuller understanding of what your experience as a student might look like.
When you visit a college, you’ll likely embark on a tour offered by the admissions office. On these tours, the guides are usually current students, so they have firsthand knowledge of what the student experience is like. Going on these tours allows you to ask questions that can help you explore the ins and outs of the school and ultimately inform your college decision. Here are 10 questions you can ask that might help you decide if this college is right for you.
1. What’s your favorite class you’ve taken so far?
The tour guide will likely mention their major and career pursuits during the tour. Even if their interests are completely different from yours, asking them about their favorite classes will give you a deeper insight into the typical academic experience at the school. For instance, maybe STEM majors require many lecture classes, whereas a humanities track might consist mostly of seminars. You can figure out important details about how classes work, from the workload to structure to TAs and more.
And in the lucky event that they are studying the same major that you’re interested in, you can ask even more specific questions to get insider information about the major. Some schools even offer tours based on majors, such as a STEM or humanities-specific tour, so make sure you’re taking full advantage of the opportunities the admissions office has to offer.
2. What surprised you most upon coming to campus?
Asking this question allows you to clarify the difference between your expectations of the school and what student life actually looks like. Whether their answer highlights something negative or positive about the school (probably the latter, since they are still representing the school), you may find out something that you wouldn’t typically see in the admissions brochure. Maybe they found the transition to dorm life easier than expected, or maybe they had trouble finding a balance between their extracurriculars and academics. They may offer advice that only applies to them, but gathering this kind of information may illuminate something about the campus culture that will sway your decision.
3. What are the postgrad/career resources like?
If they’re a senior, this is a great opportunity to ask them about their own postgrad plans and their job search. If they’re an underclassman, they may tell you about the internships they were able to get throughout their time in school and the kind of advising that is available to undergraduates, especially those who may be undecided or completely in the dark when it comes to the professional direction they want to take. You might also learn about the different paths to grad school they offer, including joint undergrad-grad school programs and/or the process of completing a senior thesis. Even if these specific details aren't pertinent to you at this moment, it will help you think long-term, particularly if you have a larger career goal further down the road that you would like to meet.
4. How do students get involved in extracurricular activities?
Most, if not all, colleges and universities have extracurricular activities, but the process through which students can actually join these clubs and groups can vary widely from school to school. Some groups have an application or “rush” process — the word “rush” often applies to the way students join sororities and fraternities, but sometimes extracurricular groups like debate teams and singing groups can have a similar process for joining. You’ll want to know what the most popular groups on campus are and what kinds of niche interests you may be able to explore outside of the classroom.
5. What on-campus employment opportunities are there?
Many students have jobs on college campuses, whether it’s to help them cover tuition or just to have some extra spending money. Sometimes, student jobs, like being a research assistant or an internship on campus, can offer you experience in your desired field too. It’s good to know what the typical salary for these jobs might be or what time commitment they expect. If there aren’t many student jobs available on campus, that’s also good to take into consideration when making your college choice.
6. Are there any school traditions? If so, what are they?
School traditions are often some of the most exciting and treasured parts of college life. Whether it’s a decades-old song sung at a sporting event or a welcoming ritual specifically for first-year students, these traditions can help you feel connected to your peers and school in a meaningful way. Your tour guide might have some fun anecdotes to share about the school traditions they value most, and it’ll give you a nice window into how the school fosters a tight-knit community.
7. Where do most students live?
Since you’ll likely be seeing dorms on your tour (or at least the outside of them), you’ll probably be envisioning what your life might look like on campus. And because most college students move dorms every year or so and can be assigned rooms through a lottery system or choose their roommates, it’s important to know exactly what your housing situation might be. It’s also good to know how many students live on or off-campus so that you can assess what your living costs could look like depending on the availability of student housing.
8. What would you change about your college experience, if you could change anything?
When you ask this question, you’re probably going to get a relatively mild answer, since your tour guide is, again, a representative of the school. They might mention the common struggles of dorm life or maybe a distaste for the campus meal plan. However, whatever they say will hopefully clue you into some of the downsides of student life, albeit small, which is also important to consider. No college is perfect, so it’s important to know which parts of your four years may be less than ideal.
9. What is your favorite part of social life on campus?
Depending on the size of the school’s student body, the ways that students socialize on a day-to-day basis can vary widely. It may seem like a trivial thing, but if you’re someone who’s looking for a strong community, it’s important to know what social opportunities may be available once you’re on campus. While your tour guide probably won’t talk about partying or anything of that sort, social life is an integral part of a college experience, so it’s something to consider when choosing a school.
10. What does your average day on campus look like?
Your tour guide, again, may have different academic and extracurricular pursuits than what you’re going for, but this question may elucidate the general pace of life on campus. Are they constantly rushing from classes to clubs, or are they able to work in more study time at a library? What routines have they established in their daily lives? Try to imagine what your daily life as a student there might look like when they answer.
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