Tips for Touring a College the Right Way
A Guide to Help Students and Parents Navigate University Tours
The college tour is an important part of finding the right school for you. Shamrck wants to offer some helpful tips for students and parents to navigate these tours. When you are thinking about your future, it is important to visit the school campuses that you are interested in. It is an opportunity to get to know a school, see what they have to offer, and decide if it is a good fit for you and your family.
Visiting a university campus can be very fun and informative. University tours are a great way to get the feel for what college life is like. Tours usually include information about housing, meal plans, activities and much more. The best part of attending a university tour is that you can learn so many things in one day. There are many places on campus that will interest you and in-person visits allow you to discover them. Tours are often run by current students, meaning they can give you great insight, tips, or funny stories you would not find online.
Do Research and Plan Ahead of Time
It may be more convenient to take a college tour during the summer holidays, but doing the tour while school is in session gives you a more accurate picture of the university. You may need to register for the tour or it may only be available on certain days.
Tours have been altered by the Covid pandemic, so be prepared to deal with those changes. Tours may be limited in size or perhaps entirely remote, offering virtual tours.
Where to Start
Students, bring your parents or someone else whose opinion you trust. They know you better than anyone else and can help with this big life decision. Dress comfortably as you may be doing a lot of walking. Come prepared with questions. Even after completing the tour, plan on spending time. Stay on campus and immerse yourself in the experience.
Document Your Visit as You Go
Take a notebook for good notes, thoughts, and observations, and take photos. It will help you keep track of everything later when you are focusing on a final decision. Pros and cons lists? Not just for Rory Gilmore, pros and cons lists are incredibly helpful tools. Seeing it in ink, weighing what schools had better attributes, helps with the process.
Inquire About the Campus Experience
It is crucial that you feel comfortable on the campus of whatever college or university you attend. It is everything from the size of the campus and building layout to overall culture and “feel” of the place. Without a sense of belonging, it becomes much more difficult to succeed. Get financial aid information, talk to admissions, get campus safety information. It is critical to find out the basic information from the get go.
Then visit the library, bulletin boards, the school bookstore, student union, and any other hangout spots. See how you can mesh. Explore the gym, cafeteria, health clinic, religious groups, career center (for student jobs), and any other facilities that may apply to you. For example, for disabled students, this could mean meeting with the Disability Resource Center to learn what programs and accommodations are available to students.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What events does the campus hold? Is there a strong student community that would make you feel involved, supported, and enjoy your experience. Are there plenty of groups and opportunities in case you struggle academically or emotionally?
Focus on Your Intended Major
Your major will determine where you spend a lot of your time on campus, so you want to make sure the department is something you are comfortable with. The last two years of your degree will likely be spent primarily in that department, so make sure it is a place you like and that you can connect with the people there too. Review a course catalog to explore the classes offered and the pathway to the degree you want. Get information about admissions, what departments are more impacted and difficult to be accepted into, and graduation rates.
Talk to People
Talking to people can be very helpful. The students that are walking around campus are your potential peers and can provide a wealth of knowledge about the school, city, and overall culture. You can learn a lot from a few open and honest conversations with real students. Even simple things, like when you are hungry, ask students for recommendations. They will likely have fun, local treasures to suggest, like the best local BBQ place or a hidden burger joint where the locals go. Look at the local sites since many college towns have an amazing culture. Tour dorms and apartments to get an idea of where you might want to live in the future.
College tours are a great way to get an idea of what it’s like on campus, but they can seem overwhelming. College Board offers a college tour checklist to help you make sure you make the most of your experience. Review this list and take it with you as a reminder.
When you visit a university, it is important to keep in mind why you are there and what you want out of the experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything. Whether you’re curious or confused, it is important to use the college tour as a means to gain clarity in your decision making. Remember to budget your trip and don’t forget about the benefits of exploring local community colleges too. Also, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own because, while the guided tour is very helpful, there can be a lot you learn by exploring on your own. You might see something that interests you that wasn’t on the tour.
It has been suggested that you should save the “favorite” school for last so you have worked out the kinks on other tours (e.g. questions you need to ask) and have something to compare. Keep track of all the schools you visit with notes or a voice recording app so that you can keep it all straight. Don’t rush into any decisions about whether you like or dislike a school. Take your time. Ultimately you need to remember to follow your gut. When you find the right school for you, it will fit.
Go to the Shamrck Dashboard today for a personalized career plan and access to local opportunities that will help set you on the path for success.
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