With the weather starting to get warmer, on-the-ball high-school juniors will be going on college campus tours. Campus tours are an ideal opportunity for juniors to learn more about schools they might apply to, including facilities, course offerings, and campus services. In past posts, we have talked about the importance of asking the right questions on college campus tours. This week, we are shifting focus away from questions you ask others to zero in on the things you need to take note of yourself.
Choosing a college is a crucial decision that has a long-term impact on your future. It is a choice that should not be taken lightly and should be done after you have collected as much information as possible. However, while it is crucial to understand college stats, job placement rates, and course offerings, several things will be up to you to notice. This could very well make or break your decision to attend a particular college. Here are five things you need to take note of when visiting a college campus.
Yes, you have to apply to and be selected by a college. You are, in a sense auditioning yourself in the hopes that they choose you. However, you are also auditioning them. Never forget that a college must earn your time and money just as much as you need to secure your acceptance into that school. With tuition rates as high as they are, you have a right to know exactly what you are paying for.
When on a campus tour, attempt to see as many classrooms and lecture halls as possible. If your tour group skips a building, then go back and tour it on your own. Also, if you know what majors you are interested in, be sure to visit classrooms used by the departments you are targeting. When viewing all the rooms, take note of the type of technology they do or do not have, including smartboards. Do desks have enough space for a notebook or laptop? Are desks old and wobbly or new and solid? This is an indicator of whether or not the school invests in its facilities.
Dorm Room Size
Most college students are so excited about being on their own they don’t take the proper time to examine their new living quarters. The idea of having your own space away from your parents can be thrilling and overwhelming. This is why you need to ground yourself and understand what you are signing up for. Take a hard look dorms during your campus tour and make sure you can be comfortable in them.
Many schools are known for accepting more students than they can house because they do not want to turn down the tuition revenue. The result of this can be overcrowded dorm rooms holding more students really fit. Your campus tour guide will show you one or two hand-picked rooms. Examine them and confirm they are of decent size. Then, connect with alumni and current students via LinkedIn and Facebook and ask about their campus living experiences. This fact-finding will come in handy when comparing schools down the line.
If you are planning to live off campus, see if there is adequate public transportation or at least parking close enough to campus that you are not taking an extended hike to and from class each day.
The focus of any college campus tour is the actual campus. However, it is equally important to drive through the surrounding area and town where the college is located. Regardless of whether you are going to dorm or commute, you will be spending a considerable amount of time in that area for the next four years. This area and what it includes it just as important as any building you visit on campus.
The first thing to take notice of is the type of town that surrounds the school. Several schools I have visited over the years have been in the middle of lower-income cities. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. However, the surrounding streets appear to be less than safe than request a copy of the school’s yearly safety and incident report. This will tell you if there is anything to be worried about.
Second, what does the town around the school have to offer? Does it include simple services such as a grocery store and places to eat? Again, this is not something you think about when visiting a college and learning about the education they offer. However, based on my conversation with graduates, having easy access to things like groceries and entertainment becomes more important than they thought initially. The last thing you want is to move in on campus and then learn it’s 45 minutes to the closest grocery store or movie theater.
Earlier, we dove deep into the importance of taking classes is clean, well-maintained classrooms. It is equally important to examine the buildings on campus. Once again, this is a reliable indicator of how much the school reinvests into their campus and infrastructure. Each building you go into should showcase the school’s effort to create an inclusive learning environment for its students. If you leave your campus tour unimpressed, that could be an indicator of what else the school is hiding.
Specifically, when is the last time the buildings you are touring have been renovated. Are the hallways clean and fresh or old and run down? Once again, your tour will undoubtedly focus on the newest buildings. If you have to, tour the other buildings on campus by yourself. Lastly, make sure you know exactly where you will be spending the majority of your time. It all comes back to the type of experience you want to have each day on campus.
Student Body Attitude
The last item on this list focuses on the overall attitude and vibe of the students you encounter on campus. This one is tricky because even the happiest students can seem blah early in the morning or on the way to a challenging class. The key here is to be aware of the various students you encounter across the whole campus. What is their overall attitude and demeanor? Does it appear as if they are having fun, or are they most likely walking heads down in silence?
If you are taking your campus tour on the weekend, take note of how many students and cars are on campus. This is a sign of how active the campus is on the weekend. If it feels like a ghost town, then chances are the student body is made up mostly of commuters. On the flip side, if you notice students playing games, parking lots full of cars, and various signs of life, then you most likely are looking at school with a vibrant and active student body.
There are a lot of things you know to research and look for when looking at colleges. You will be presented with a ton of information without even asking for it. The key is to know what else you need to look for – the things they don’t cover in brochures and tours. During each visit, imagine yourself at that school. What do you need to have the best experience possible? Choosing a college is not a time to settle. It’s a time to be stubborn and only accept an opportunity that will earn your time, money, and deliver the best experience possible.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.