While summer isn’t always the best time to visit a college since school is in limited session, for many families it’s a convenient time to squeeze in campus visits. Despite the lack of academic year impressions, there are ways to maximize your summer campus visits.
Families should come prepared with a list of questions to ask not only admissions officers, but more importantly student admissions representatives and tour guides, in order to get a full idea of campus life. By tailoring questions to these students’ personal experiences, families can see the school from a current student’s perspective, rather than just hearing statistics compiled by the admission office, which may create an incomplete impression for prospective students. Most quantitative data is available either on the school’s website or in paper pamphlets. Campus tours provide an opportunity to collect qualitative data that can provide important points of comparison between two schools with otherwise similar numbers. On a hot summer day of touring colleges, qualitative data can also give much needed character to an otherwise empty campus.
Before heading out on your next college trip, consider a list of questions that are important to you. Below are ten aspects of college life that are of particular interest to prospective students, with possible questions for student admissions representatives.
- How many students were in your introductory courses? Upper-level courses?
- Have your courses been taught by professors or teaching assistants? What roles do teaching assistants play in classes?
- How difficult is it to sign up for classes as a freshman?
- How often are you expected to meet with your advisor during the year? Are advisors readily available to meet with their students?
- How did you decide upon your major? Is it easy to switch majors? How much time do I have to decide my major before formally declaring?
- Where do freshmen live? Is it separate from upperclassmen?
- What are the living arrangements in dorms? Do students generally move off campus? Is housing guaranteed all four years? If it isn’t, how easy/difficult is it to find on and off campus options?
- How is the food on campus? Are meal plans mandatory? How expensive are food options off campus?
- How has your experience been living in the dorms? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
- What clubs and activities are active on campus? What are you involved in?
- Is Greek life a large part of the social life on campus? What is rush like?
- How often do students go home on the weekends? How does this affect your social life? What constitutes a typical weekend for you and your friends?
- Are sports an important part of the school identity here? What levels are available — varsity, club, and intramurals? How competitive and time-consuming are they?
- Are there research opportunities on campus? How often do students participate in research? Do students work alongside their professors when conducting research?
- Are jobs readily available on campus? Off campus? How easy is it to obtain a job?
- How many internship opportunities are available to students during the school year? How have your internships impacted your college experience?
- Do students study abroad? At what point in their college career do they generally do so? What resources are available to students interested in study abroad programs?
- How long is freshman orientation? Is it a worthwhile experience? What was your favorite part of freshman orientation? Least favorite?
- What advice do you have for incoming freshmen? What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
- What resources are available to freshmen to help facilitate a smooth transition?
- How easy/difficult has it been for you to fulfill your requirements? Do you have a choice in what classes you take to fulfill requirements?
- How many classes/credits are students required to take each semester?
- How helpful is your advisor during the class selection process?
- How safe is the area around campus? Have you ever felt unsafe outside of campus?
- What policies and procedures exist to keep students safe? How accessible are campus safety personnel?
- What health and wellness resources exist on campus? How effective are these resources? What disabilities services exist on campus?
- Are tutoring services available? Is there a writing center? How effective are these programs?
- How many computer labs are on campus? Does the college provide a computer? Do you have any recommendations regarding computers (PC or Mac, laptop or tablet)?
- How many libraries are on campus? How frequently do students study in these libraries? When are these libraries open for research/studying purposes?
- What other options exist on campus for studying? Are there adequate spaces for group study? Where do you like to study?
- Why did you choose this school? What do you like most about your experience here? What do you like least?
- What other schools were you interested in?
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you applied to college?
- How is this school’s application process unique to those at other schools? Are interviews mandatory, highly suggested, or not necessary? Is the number of times I visit campus taken into consideration?
When on a tour, listen to the guide and take notes on advice, dates, and other important information. If something is unclear, ask for clarification. Remember to note where additional information can be found (website, pamphlets, emails to the admissions office). Make a point to speak one-on-one with student admissions representatives and ask the questions that are most important to you.
If you create a plan before visiting a campus, you are more likely to get the information you need and get a better sense of life at the college, despite the lack of student presence. Happy travels!