There are so many reasons why you truly need to see it believe it before committing to a college for the next four or more years. It’s doubtful that you’ve ever looked up a University online and said: “wow, that’s ugly.” Schools want you to attend their institution so while they can’t pretend to be something they’re not; you can only get a fraction of the real feel from your computer screen.
Campus tours give you the opportunity to not only check out the grounds and facilities but also to ask questions. Being prepared is key in a successful tour. Do you know what kind of campus you’re looking for? Are you looking for proximity to a large city? What are your deal breakers? What’s on your wishlist? College Board offers a pretty extensive campus visit checklist that includes things like meeting a professor and students with the major you’re interested in.
Freshman Dorm Rooms
Dorm rooms can induce a bit of culture shock having to live in a small square room that may or may not have air conditioning. You’re rarely going to find a freshman dorm building that’s comparable to a hotel room, so you might need to budge a bit if you’re setting your standards high, but it’s definitely something to check out. Some questions to seek answers to are:
- Is there a common area?
- Is there air conditioning?
- Do you have to share bathrooms and showers?
- How far of a walk is your dorm to other important buildings?
Food is another factor that’s not directly related to your education but plays a major role in your quality of life. Depending on the size of the school, you may have a single dining hall or many, try to give them all a peek. Get ready to give up homemade food for a while and try to get answers to these questions on your tour.
- Will there always be access to healthy options?
- Are there accommodations for restrictive diets?
- What are the hours of operation for the dining hall and other on-campus food options?
- Are there enough options?
- How crowded does the dining hall get?
Study Spaces and Library
Anyone who’s been through undergrad will tell you that it’s nearly impossible to do all of your schoolwork cooped up in your potentially-not-air conditioned dorm room. The library is one place to go, but usually, there’s space on campus for group work or brainstorming.
- Where are the group study spaces, and what do they look like?
- How crowded do these spaces get? What are the noise rules?
- Is there food close by?
- What extra resources are offered? Whiteboards? Databases? Printers?
Classrooms and Career Center
You need to understand what kind of classroom setting works for you. Do you want a good relationship with your professors or do you prefer to learn in a class of 50+ students? It’s good to ask these questions on your tour, but to give you a better sense of what your legitimate learning environment will look like, walk through an educational building during class hours. Paired with your education are the opportunities that are afforded to you. A well-organized and efficient career center can be the difference between a summer internship and lifeguarding job.
- Are the class sizes optimal for your way of learning?
- Where did alumni from your potential major find work? Where did they make that connection?
- Does the career center offer workshops? Career fairs? Resume/cover letter editing?
Even if you haven’t been a fitness guru up to this point in your life, you might want to join a club sport or take up yoga. If you don’t have those options, life can get repetitive. Most colleges offer specific health-oriented activities through their recreational centers and campus life.
- Is the gym up to date?
- Are club teams/activities offered for students of all levels of athletic ability?
- Is there space on campus to play unorganized sport?
The surrounding area
The actual location of the college could play a bigger part in your decision than you might think. Usually, you know before narrowing down your search to tours if you prefer a rural, suburban or city area. Each option is unique and offers extremely different pros and cons.
- Can I find a job around here?
- Is the area safe?
- How easy is it to get home?
- Do I fit into this culture?
- Is this a commuter school or are most students residential?
The college you choose needs to be a good fit beyond a valuable education. You can only thrive as a student and then a career-driven individual if you’re happy and comfortable in your environment. So many high school graduates are wowed by the beauty of campuses or the proximity to their favorite city that they forget to investigate some of their very basic needs for the next four years. It’s important to do your research and look for the right things during those determining University tours.
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Anne Baron is a highly experienced educator, writer, and copywriter specializing in academic research. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with almost 25 years of experience in teaching and academic writing. She spent a dozen years managing a large college peer-tutoring program and another dozen years in the classroom teaching college students. She has since retired from teaching and devotes her time and efforts to freelance writing for institutions, businesses, and colleges like Patrick Henry College.
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