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  • Writer's pictureKate Pedigo, M.Ed., NCC

College Tour Tips

Updated: May 22

College guidebooks with college statistics

While you can research colleges in many ways, a campus tour provides a unique

opportunity to learn about the culture of the campus and surrounding area.

The guidelines below will help you plan a successful campus visit:

Plan college tours well in advance. Certain dates fill quickly, and some schools do not offer college tours on weekends. It’s a good idea to travel when your student has days off from school (especially if they’re not holiday dates), but college tours often involve missing school.

High school spring break is a very popular time for college tours, but be mindful that

March and April tour slots will fill quickly for that reason. Also, colleges do not always

have tours available during their spring breaks, and if students are not present, you will

learn less about campus culture during your visit.

Try to arrange an official college tour. Typically, you can register for tours on each college’s website. College tours will sometimes include an admissions presentation, which can be helpful to attend. Depending on the college, you may also have the opportunity to schedule time with faculty members and/or students from different departments, the honors program, etc.

If official college tours are not available on your travel dates, you can still drive through campus and the surrounding area, and in most cases, walk the campus. Some colleges have a welcome center where you can ask questions, pick up a map, etc. Some schools also offer self-guided audio campus tours.

To get a more personalized experience during your official or self-guided college

tour, you can try these suggestions:

  • Reach out to your area admissions representative to see if he/she can help you arrange a meeting with a faculty member or student during your visit. Email addresses for area admissions reps can often be found on a school’s website or by calling the admissions office.

  • Parents: If you have the opportunity to join a parent social media group for your student’s colleges of interest, you can ask if any members have a son or daughter interested in providing a tour or a chat (preferably a student whose major aligns with your student’s interests). You can also do this on large national social media groups that cater to parents of teenagers/college students. It is common to offer to compensate the student for his/her time. A gift card for food delivery or a popular national retail store is a great option.

  • Parents in social media groups are also a great resource for dining/entertainment suggestions, but be sure to check prior posts, because your questions have likely been asked and answered many times already.

  • While walking through campus, encourage your child to approach a student and ask a few questions. Most of the time, students are very willing to share their thoughts and experiences.

  • Consider eating a meal on campus to experience another aspect of authentic student life (and determine the quality of the college’s dining options). Some campus visit events include a meal voucher, but this is not always the case. Note: College students often mention that the best food is served during big campus visit events. If applicable, you can also inquire about how a college caters to food allergies and/or specific dietary needs while on campus (or by asking this of other parents in social media groups).

Things to notice on your college tour:

  • Do students/staff look happy? Are they friendly?

  • Do staff members/tour guides answer questions thoroughly and do they seem interested in helping? Do they make you feel like the school would be lucky to have you or that you’d be lucky to be accepted?

  • Do you like the aesthetics of the campus (architecture, classrooms, dorms, green space, dining areas)?

  • What amenities and resources are available on a social and educational level?

  • Does it seem easy to get from class to class? Are students walking, taking buses, riding bikes, utilizing scooter rentals?

  • Do you like the weather? Are you visiting when the weather is at its worst/best?

  • Is the campus “vibe” a good fit for you? Your gut feeling is one of those intangible, but very important, factors to consider.

Potential question topics during your college tour:

  • Cost of attendance and merit/need aid options

  • Housing styles and policies

  • Food options and dining plans (and whether they’re mandatory)

  • Learning or physical accommodations (if applicable)

  • Class sizes, registration process, potential difficulty in getting desired courses, typical faculty credentials

  • Ease of changing majors or adding a major or minor

  • Campus safety

  • Honors programs, research options, study abroad programs

  • Career services, including internships and co-ops

  • Availability/prominence of Greek life or other selective membership/living groups

Expand your visit beyond the school. Explore the surrounding area and keep some

questions in mind while doing so. Do you prefer to have dining/entertainment options

within walking distance? Do you like the feel of an urban, suburban, or rural school? Are

transportation options to local stores or other amenities available (or even provided by

the college)? Try to find out where students spend their time off campus, eat at a local

restaurant, stay the night, and get a feel for the night life.

Document your college tour experience. Take pictures and notes along the way, or at least take notes soon after your visit. Time has a way of making people forget the little details, so pictures and notes can provide great reminders.

Follow up. If you enjoyed your campus visit and are interested in applying, reach out to the school’s admissions officer for your area to let them know about your experience and ask any remaining questions.

Enjoy your college tours!

Kate Pedigo is an Independent Educational Consultant and founder of Growing2College.

Request a free 20-min consultation with Kate to discuss your college planning needs.

Growing2College contact info

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