Visiting the schools you’re interested in is one of the most important things you can do during your college search. Websites, statistics and virtual tours are great and all, but you really can’t get the feel of a college until you go there.
Seeing the campus in person can make or break a decision for you, and feeling at home at whichever school you choose is probably the biggest factor in your happiness during your 4 years there.
Even if you have an awesome tour guide, they’ll throw a bunch of facts and features of the college at you while you’re walking, but they’re bound to forget things.
Tour guides are usually upperclassmen at the college or university you’re looking at. That means, apart from all the educational and institutional aspects they have to tell you about, they also have real experience with the student body. The best questions to ask your college tour guide are about what student life is like, and less on the hard data.
Of course, factors like cost and class size are important factors in deciding a school.
However, questions about that can be answered by people like admissions counselors. (Or, you can most likely find it online)
It’s important to take advantage of each college tour, and find out as much information as you can while you’re there.
P.S. chances are, if you’re wondering something, someone in your college tour group is, too!
These 10 questions are things the guides should answer but sometimes skip or don’t have time for. Make sure they’re answered to get a better feel for each college you visit.
How does the laundry work?
In several of the schools I’ve looked at, the laundry was either free (in the price of your tuition), with the exception of detergent. If you have to use quarters for the laundry… well, let’s just say you shouldn’t have to. If a college is caught up with other colleges and trying to stay modern and relevant, you shouldn’t have to pay for laundry.
How are roommates chosen, and what are the options?
Most schools decide roommates in the same basic format: fill out a quiz about yourself, and get matched to someone with similar answers. However, some schools do a great job and take that even further.
At one school I visited, the college did the quiz format but then also had an online chat forum, almost like an online dating site, where you could create a profile and list all your interests and information about yourself. Then, other people could look at your profile and think, “Hey, I would probably like that person,” and then contact them to see about being roommates, or even just chat. You could see other people who had the same interests and habits and see if they were a potential roommate.
If you both decided that you liked each other enough to room, you could contact the school and become roommates. How cool is that? So much better than just a boring survey.
If you’re looking to go to college and room with a friend, an aspect you would want to ask about is if you can choose or bring a roommate the first year. A lot of colleges don’t, because they want you to make friends, but every once in a while there will be a college that does allow you to room with someone you know the first year.
What kinds of meal plans are offered?
College meal plans can vary greatly. At one college I visited, the meal plan ran on meal swipes. On your ID card, you got 15 swipes a week and each meal swipe got you one entry into a dining hall, where the food was buffet style.
At another college, they had a system that still used a card, but each semester you got a certain amount of “money” on your card, and you could eat at any of the dining halls on any number of occasions, but each food cost a certain amount of “money.”
At this school, they also had declining dollars on their card to use at other places such as the “Marketplace” and other little stores around campus. The food here cost money from the declining dollars instead of the “money” from their meal plan.
What kinds of jobs are available on campus?
Most colleges offer the same types of jobs, but different ones are offered all over campus.
If you’re interested in working on campus in college to help pay your tuition or even just to have extra cash, it’s important to know what kinds of jobs are offered at the school so that when you get there you have the best chance of getting one you like, or can tolerate, and fit in your schedule.
There may even be job opportunities outside the school with companies that are specifically looking to hire college students.
What types of rooms and housing are offered?
On your college tour, your guide should show you an example dorm and explain the different types of housing. Different colleges can offer a variety of room and housing options.
Almost all schools require freshman to live in a centralized dorm area/building, and then allow a variety of options in the years after. Many students may also live off campus after their second year.
Dorms also can come in several sizes, such as regular doubles and suites. Individual schools might also have specializes styles, but the basics usually include 2, 3, or 4 people.
Also, ask about the furniture situation in the dorms. Some schools provide a good amount of furniture, while other offer only a few pieces or even none. The less you have to buy, the better.
What times are different places open?
Your class schedule is going to vary from day-to-day. In order to plan your activities for the week, like grabbing food, using the library, or going to the gym, you’re going to need to know when they are open.
You probably don’t want your food choices or the library to close early. If they do, then that’s probably not a school you want to go to. Preferably, almost all utilities will be open as much as possible, so that no matter what time your class is, you’ll be able to stop by and do what you’ve got to do.
What are the options for students who want to study abroad?
A lot of students want to study abroad in college. I hope you do, because it’s one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences you can have. If you’re looking to do this, you want it to be as easy as possible to travel without it interfering with your classes.
Some schools are fantastic at coordinating study abroad options. At one school, they have trimesters, with 3 week breaks in between. They offered classes abroad during those time periods so you didn’t have to miss any of your regular class time.
Another school offered over 600 different options for going abroad! If this is something you’re really interested in, you want to make the sure the college is accommodating to that.
What are the research options?
If someone is a professor at a college, there is a very high chance they are involved in work in their field outside of the school. If you’re really interested in science, ask what kinds of research opportunities are offered.
A lot of colleges don’t extend opportunities to undergrads, so if one does, ask how you can get involved. Some colleges even extend research to freshman. Research is a great opportunity and resume builder, and can lead you to great jobs and connections.
What Gen Ed classes are required?
Regardless of what college you go to, there will be basic classes that you will be required to take your first year. These are usually classes in the subjects of English, Math, Science, History, and Language, that aren’t within your major, although some classes in your major may qualify as credit. It’s important to know which classes are required so that you can take AP or college courses before you apply in order to try to save time and money by transferring credits.
What transportation is provided to places on and off campus?
Two colleges I visited were completely opposite ends of the spectrum of transportation. One school was fantastic, was completely walkable, and offered 3 types of us services both around campus and to the surrounding city, at several times, every day of the week.
At the other college, they didn’t even mention transportation on the tour. What were we supposed to think? It’s an important aspect of college life to be able to get where you have to go, when you need to.
Before you go to a school, you should learn as much as you can about it to make sure it’s the perfect match. There are so many aspects to any school, there’s no way a guide can go over all of them in one tour.
If you’re like me and aren’t good at coming up with questions on the fly, this list can get you started. You’ll be glad, and so will the other people in your group, you asked.
Good luck on your college search!