#1: Make sure you’re *actually* registered for the tour.
Before your feet hit the pavement of any university, make sure you’ve followed the appropriate measures to register yourself and your family for a tour of campus. By simply Googling “[School Name] campus tours,” you should be prompted with the appropriate directions and registration portal. This helps tour guides get a sense of who you are as an applicant and which venues they will take your tour group to see. Be as specific as you can when answering the initial survey questions.
BONUS PRO TIP: If you know what you want to major in: some specialized college programs will offer personal tours to applicants in addition to the general tour of campus. The only way to find out? REACH OUT! Before heading over, contact an administrator or faculty member via phone or email and express your interest in seeing a tour of the academic building. Trust me, applicants: this is where you find out the juicy details of your prospective major. If it weren’t for a personal tour of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, I probably wouldn’t have chosen the major (it was the basement innovation lab that sold me…)
#2: Sit in on a Financial Aid Seminar
No matter which college you visit, the bottom line will be the same (more or less): after you’re done here you’ll be in debt. Grave…but realistic, y’all. So unless you have a full-ride in the bag, make sure you hear what financial aid packages this college has to offer. You’ll also be able to score a ton of insider scholarship info. “Oh! This college has a scholarship for underwater basket weavers?” How would you have known that if not for the financial aid seminar.
#3: Pack Your Walking Shoes
The halls of high school may be your runway, but honey: there’s nothing worse than blistered toes and chafed heels in the middle of a walking tour. Do yourself a favor and pack some comfortable shoes–with all you have on your plate, the last thing you need to worry about is footwear. This goes for the guests you’re bringing as well: if your parent is anything like mine, you’ll want to check her suitcase for a glimpse at her well-broken-in Sketchers…because a mother in pain is a terrible college tour accessory.
#4: Check the Academic Calendar
If you really want to see what a college is like, you need to see the students in action. That’s why you should seriously consider checking out a few on-campus events. Whether it is a theatrical performance, a concert, or a lecture, aim to attend at least one event while visiting in order to get a felt sense of what students on campus are really like. Who knows–you may even make a few friends along the way!
#5: Don’t Leave Without Seeing a Dorm Room
I cannot stress this enough, really. Seeing a dorm room on your tour is not only the most fun part, it will also give you a hopeful glimpse at what your next year home will look like. Sometimes having the mental image of what the future may hold is the best motivator to keep on studying and keep on applying…
#6: Get Lost!
Did you eye the quaint campus coffee shop on your way over? Grab a cup of joe! Ditch the tour group for a taste of all the college town has to offer. Can you imagine yourself Saturday-brunching in this small town? Can you see yourself falling in love with the hustle and bustle of this major city? If so, you should add this college to your “must apply” list. Otherwise, leave it be. Take it from an expert: if you don’t immediately fall in love with this place, the chances of you not enjoying your time here are substantially higher.
#7: Follow the School’s Social Media Accounts
More likely than not, you’ll find at least one hella Instagrammable moment on your college tour. Take the time to take that great picture and network in the process. Tweet, ‘Gram and Snap your way through your time on campus and you may find new people to connect with…or a chance to finally achieve your 15 minutes of fame! Colleges across the country are making initiatives to connect with you on social media. Take the bait! It can only help you in the long run.
#8: Let Your Parents Ask Questions (hold the eye roll)
Listen, I get it. I’ve seen my fair share of embarrassing parents…have I mentioned I’m from New Jersey? No matter how silly the question, give your parents the space to ask whatever they want without fear of being judged. Who knows–their ridiculous question about which toilet paper the institution uses may be the very burning question on someone else’s mind! Many months will pass between submitting your application and enrolling, so the chances of anyone remembering your father’s bad college sports jokes and questions about academic rankings are slim to none. Don’t sweat it!
#9: Come Up with Your Own Questions
Don’t leave it to your parents to do all the talking. Come up with a list of 2-3 questions that actually matter to you. Are you curious about class size or campus life? Campus tour guides are excited to answer your questions–they are paid to love this place! Need inspiration? Here’s a list of 41 Unique Questions to Ask on Your Next College Visit! Get the answers you deserve before you sign on the dotted line.
#10: Be Open and HAVE FUN!
Whether you’re in love with the campus or totally hating it, be open to the new experiences before you. Even if you don’t wind up coming or applying, it’s important to see university life in every facet. The experience can serve as a basis for your own college decision down the line. Plus…it’s another story to add to your future dinner party arsenal. Have fun, relax, and enjoy the tour!