How to Make Your Campus Visit Count

By NEXT Staff on Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Visiting a college campus can be a thrilling experience, but with the stress of navigating new scenery and a jam-packed tour schedule, you might find you don’t get all the facts you need. Take the advice of these campus guides and students to make your campus visit memorable, worthwhile and one step closer to what’s next.

Speak Up!

The most important thing to remember while on a campus tour? Be engaged. Don’t let shyness hold you back when the tour guide asks if anyone has questions, because if you’re thinking it, chances are someone else is too.

“Ask the tough questions,” says Sean Alexander, a campus tour leader and sophomore at Hendrix College in Conway, but “don’t waste time on the percentage of men to women. Instead, take the time to ask your guide about your potential department or the social scene.”

Conversations about the day-to-day life you’ll be leading once on campus will reveal more than just the stats you read about in the school’s brochure.

Bring Your Parents

Whether they let on or not, your parents are wary of all the responsibility you’ll undertake at college — and of their potential role in your collegiate finances. Inviting them to tag along on your tours – and being cool when they ask a lot of questions – will alleviate some of their anxieties and maybe some of yours.

“My parents often thought to inquire about different facets of college life that I had no idea would become critically important,” says University of Arkansas senior and tour guide Lindsey Roe.

Scout Out the Dorms

Some colleges will have a model dorm to show you on your visit. Jot down a few items that you like or will need.

Guides usually show one dorm during the tour, but this sample isn’t the only kind on campus. Most schools have premium accommodations and suite-style dorms, too, though your housing options might be restricted to certain dorms your first year.

(Also see Take A Sneak Peek at Your Future Dorm Room)

Locate the Essentials

Countless assignments and hours of study time pile up over the semesters, so an ample supply of quiet study spots and printer-connected workstations can make a world of difference. Some big questions to ask: Is the computer lab always open? How much does printing cost? Do I have access to any software?

Shun Ingram, a student tour guide at the University of Central Arkansas, says to also scout out the admissions, financial aid and housing offices — all places you’ll be seeing a lot of. Check out the student life or campus activities office, too, for pointers on how to get involved on campus, make friends and find learning opportunities outside the classroom.

And checking out the on-campus dining options is a must. “Good day or bad, rain or shine, one thing is constant: You will have to eat!” says Hendrix’s Sean Alexander. Find out what’s open when, how much it costs and what options are available if you have special dietary needs.

Go Social

From Greek organizations to groups and clubs, you’ll be missing out if you don’t find out about the on-campus social (and résumé-building!) opportunities.

You may not think of yourself as the fraternity or sorority type, but rush week can change all the perceptions you have about Greek life. If you have an interest in rushing, make sure to look at some of the houses on campus.

(Also see Going Greek: The Truth About Fraternities & Sororities)

Don’t speak Greek? College campuses are home to loads of advocacy groups, student government associations or professional organizations within your field of study. Take a look around at what’s available. Trust us, in four years you’ll wish you had gotten more involved!

Stick Around

A campus tour daytrip can be overwhelming and exhausting, depending on campus size and the distance of your drive. Consider an overnight or weekend trip instead. That way, you have time to take a second stroll around campus and can experience the surrounding community while you’re at it.

Have fun!

It’s understandable to be nervous when visiting a campus for the first time, but focus on the excitement of the next step and have fun. The more relaxed you are, the clearer your mind will be to figure out the right fit for you.

“It’s in your best interest to absorb as much as you can,” Sean says. “I tell my ‘walkers’ to put themselves in the shoes of a student on campus. Does your footprint match theirs?”

10 Questions to Ask Your Tour Guide

  1. Where do I eat?
  2. What’s the laundry situation for on-campus residents?
  3. What if I don’t like my roommate?
  4. Are there campus police or emergency call boxes?
  5. Is there is a health center on campus? How much does it cost?
  6. How do I get involved in campus organizations?
  7. What’s there to do on the weekends?
  8. Do I have to have a car to get around?
  9. How does parking work?
  10. What technology is available to students?

When do I visit?

You’ve found a degree program you’re interested in at your dream school. Score! Now it’s time to see the campus for yourself. Talk to its admissions office to arrange a visit in the spring of your junior year. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to scout out other options and sit on your decision before you apply in the fall.