Chirping birds, beautiful old buildings covered in ivy, large century trees and an eager student chatting and walking backward. This is what many of us experience during our kid’s college tours.
I’ve been on many, many tours during the searches for my kids and in addition to the painted picture here, I noticed one other thing, silent parents and students.
The college tour can be a benign 2 hours of seeing the campus, “here is the gym (it’s so awesome), here is the cafeteria (discussion of meal plans), here is the dorm room (yes/no we do/don’t have AC), here is the library (yes we have wifi)…” you get the drift… Can you imagine a college campus without wifi?
You can choose to take this ho hum tour, or you can choose to really learn something about the college. If you are genuinely considering this school, take this time to learn things about the school the tour guide won’t traditionally tell you.
They can provide a plethora of information if you just ask, and there is plenty of backward walking time to get these questions in. Instead of “do you have wifi” ask “How good is the wifi connection in most buildings? Dorms? Outside on the lawns? How often is it down? How good it the IT support, how quickly do they respond?”
College Inside Track provides a long list of things to consider asking here. Spend some time truly thinking through your current day to day world, is there anything specific you need as a person that is required of wherever you live (easy access to a pharmacy, completely silent areas to study for instance) and be sure to ask those questions of the tour guide and admissions, are there differences in the answers? Be sure to have these written down somewhere so you don’t forget to ask!
Here are softer questions for your guide that can reveal more about the school than the standard walking tour spiel:
1. What surprised you when you got here your freshman year, what was most unexpected?
2. What do you love most about your school? What drives you crazy?
3. What do you wish you had known before making the decision to come here?
4. What were your deciding factors?
5. What are weekends like here (particularly if home is far away)?
6. What unexpected costs did you experience, things you hadn’t planned for that we should?
Guides aren’t marketers, they are students and interestingly candid if you ask! Most will offer you a business card or other way to connect after the tour, take the card! You will likely have questions or clarification you will want.
Be sure to bring a notebook to every tour and ask your student to write in it as soon as you are done with your tour. You will be amazed how quickly all the colleges blend together.
Note what they loved (not just facts, but feelings too) and what made them uneasy or nervous.
One last note to maximize the tour, if you already know what you want to major in, ask, in advance, to speak with the dean or key faculty in that program during your tour. This is especially important if you are traveling to get to this college, the school will do what they can to accommodate and you will get a strong sense of their desire to work with your student.