The college trip that you and your child take together will likely include a formal tour and a group information session in the admissions office. Formal tours give you a glimpse of campus layout and resources, such as libraries, labs, and athletic complexes. They allow you to gauge how your child would get around campus, how the institution approaches student safety, and whether the campus has an overall look and feel that appeal to your child.
For starters, decide on the tour that you want to take. On a trip to the Yale campus (more in my next post), I had to pick between a general campus tour, a science tour, and an engineering tour. Harvard, too, offers a general tour and one focused on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The list could go on. Make sure to explore all your options before you get to campus.
You will learn more about student life if you visit when classes are in session, in which case your child might enjoy attending one with a student host (something the admissions office can arrange for you). Even without students there, however, you should take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and benefit from those that others ask as well. Don’t be shy! You have access to a student as your tour guide, so make the most of it.
Possible questions to ask on a campus tour include
- How does the campus change at night (gates locking, pedestrian traffic, etc.)?
- Does the university provide a shuttle or a safety patrol to walk students from place to place on campus at night?
- Where do most students eat their meals freshman year? After that?
- Do most students continue to live on campus after freshman year?
- Do classes all take place in the same part of campus or do students have to travel, depending on their schedules? How does that work out logistically?
- What do dormitories look like? Is it possible to peek into a student room on the tour? [I asked this once on a tour and the guide took us to his own dorm. We got to meet and chat with students, which was interesting and fun!]
- Where could I see the _________________ [music practice rooms, Black Student Union building, school newspaper headquarters, etc. – you and your child fill in the blank with what matters to you]?
As a rule of thumb, do your homework before you visit a campus so that you can avoid questions to which you could easily find answers on the school Web site. You may also have questions come up spontaneously in response to something that the tour guide says. Again, don’t be shy. (See my next post on my visit to Yale, for an example.)
As you go on more campus tours, some will start to blend together and others will stand out. I’ve been on many and only remember one: At Rice University, the tour guides walked backwards the entire way so that they never turned their back on their guests. For me, that made a lasting impression! Have you already taken college tours with your child? What are some highlights that stood out for you?
Please contact me if you would like support planning your child’s college visits or with any other aspect of the college admissions process.