Getting Schooled on College Visits: What High-Schoolers Need to Do and Ask
Vacations are blissful. School’s out and everyone is either ready to travel or curl up in their beds. But for some students, vacations equate to college tours.
From coast to coast, there are over five thousand colleges and universities in the United States. Granted, two-year colleges and trade schools are included in this number, but there are simply too many colleges to choose from. And due to the huge selection of colleges available in the nation, many families take their teenagers on college tours to aid future college application decisions.
For many high schoolers, college is a blown-up fantasy. Students believe that their favorite schools will be everything of their dreams and align to all their high expectations. But the reality is that many students become disappointed and often find themselves clueless about their college settings. They may even end up realizing the school of their dreams is really nothing like the cliché movies, leading them to regret their college decisions once they attend the school and experience “college life.” To prevent this, college tours are essential.
However, just taking college tours will not be sufficient enough to determine for students which schools will benefit them the most. Seeing the campus layout will be impossible to assess just from strolling the campus buildings and courtyards. The social, political, and learning environments are harder to discern as favorable. Also, here’s a quick tip: make sure to visit universities when college classes are still in session, but try not to visit when the administrative offices are busy with determining the next year’s class as you want them to be available to speak with you regarding what traits prospective schools should value.
Many of my peers traveled to their dream schools this summer and came back singing praises about the beauty of the campus. But when asked how the learning environment and social atmosphere fit them, they were lost. They never asked the right questions when visiting college campuses. They were stuck daydreaming about how “awesome” it would be to attend a top-tier school.
Anyone can go to a campus and deem it beautiful and perfectly right for them. But in order for students to truly gain indispensable knowledge from college tours, high schoolers must make use of all the resources provided. Students should always have a list of questions written down to ask the college tour guide and administration for each specific college—not the trite and easily answered questions like whether or not the food is good (it is an important question, but does it really help you gain insight about the school?). Ask the questions current students and tour guides do not expect. Ask the questions that matter. The name or brand of the college will be inevitably significant; however, students should ask what percent of the students actually graduate. Students should ask if graduates are able to quickly find jobs after leaving the school and if the school incentivizes students to do research, internships, and community service. Ask questions that relate to the issues and interests you feel passionate about. While asking these questions, make sure that you are stating and writing down your name. College tours are not just about scoping the school and trying to get a glimpse of the college: signing up for college tours shows the colleges that you are interested and that you are ahead of the game by visiting.
Asking questions to the college staff and students will be extremely beneficial. But as you are touring the school, make sure to ask yourself some questions: How did you truly feel as you walked around the courtyards and buildings? Were the classrooms to your liking? Did current students enjoy learning from the professors? Were the dorms nice? Did the social activities seem engaging and fun?
And most importantly, ask yourself: did this visit make me want to apply to this school and attend if I get accepted?