How to Make the Most of Your College Tours

by Naomi Mannino

It can be daunting to choose where you might spend the next four years of your life at college. It’s a choice that will transform you, as you learn and live in an environment that will shape you for years to come. Therefore, it’s important to make the right one. A college brochure or website can only tell you so much about what life at a certain college is really like. College tours, on the other hand, give you the chance to walk around the campus, sit in on a class, visit the dorms, and eat in the dining hall, giving you a better feel for what it’s really like to be a student there.

When my daughter, a varsity volleyball player, was deciding where to go to college, we narrowed down the in-person visits to the schools that offered an athletic scholarship that worked within our budget. Before arriving, she knew what she was looking for. She wanted to choose a college that offered a communication degree, where she could see herself as an important and successful part of the volleyball team, socializing, and being inspired.

Ask About What Matters to You

When you attend college tours, basic questions are usually answered during a prepared presentation as well as in the printed materials you receive. You will likely hear about all of the majors and programs they offer, any famous or successful professors and alumni, graduation, career placement opportunities and statistics, financial aid, and even on-campus security.

During your one-on-one conversation with a student or administrator, ask specific questions that are important to you. Maybe it’s important that the college dining hall offers vegan options or satisfies other dietary requirements. Maybe you are looking for a particular club or a wide-ranging choice of clubs. Maybe you’d like to know what the students do for fun. If you will be going without a car, what are your transportation options?

When you visit the campus, you can get a feel for whether or not you feel at home there. Is it far away from the hustle and bustle or smack dab in the middle of big-city living? Are you more comfortable on a small campus with just a few thousand kids? Or do you prefer a large college with hundreds of students in each class?

In my daughter’s case, the college tours also included meeting the volleyball coaches and spending time in the locker room with the other teammates. She also spent a night in the dorms, giving her the chance to see what a night on campus was like.

Chart Your Visits, Then Compare

Once you’ve done at least two college visits, the differences become clear. But they can also become hard to remember. So, we created a chart. For each college, we listed: the scholarship offered, specifics about the volleyball program and athletic facilities, the campus’ proximity to exciting activities, and what she thought of the food and dorms. It can be overwhelming to remember everything you liked and didn’t like about each campus, so the chart came in handy for us. Likewise, you may want to determine which of the rows on the chart are more important than others. For example, upon reviewing my daughter’s chart, she determined that one out-of-state college that had a strong volleyball program wasn’t for her because the school was secluded, she didn’t have a car, and there was no public transportation.

And Don’t Leave the Campus Without . . .

Before leaving the campus, make sure to check out the laundry facilities. This is a more important feature in the dorms than you might realize. You don’t want to be lugging laundry up and down four flights of double-landing stairs with assorted key swipes, or going out of the building to do your laundry in the dead of winter!