How to make the most out of college tours

Seeing as it’s summer, now is the time when a lot of kids will start touring campuses they’re interested in attending. Visiting a college is huge, and a lot of times that’s what will inevitably make or break a decision. I know I would have chosen a different school had I not visited all of my options beforehand.

If the college is only a short drive away, then visiting it won’t be too big of a deal. However, if the college is far away from you, you might only get one chance to go there and tour it. It’s important that you get it right and make the most out of it.

For me, the most important part of college tours was the general feel I got from the campus. Some schools I saw had a very prestigious feel, while others had a very laid-back feel. In the end, that vibe you get will help play a crucial part in deciding where you want to go.

You want to make sure that overall feeling is accurate. Here are some suggestions to ensure that it is by making the most of your college tour:

Bring a map.

Perhaps most important, you should never visit a college without bringing a map of it with you. Practically every college has a campus map posted on its website. If you can, find one that has the buildings labeled — science hall, business hall, library, dorms, whatever. It’s good to know what you’re looking at and it will help you see what you need to see.

Consider a formal tour.

Some schools will offer an official tour of the campus if you want it. Personally, I’m a very independent person, so I hate taking tours. But even I have to admit that at a lot of these tours they’ll give you information you don’t already have and might help you make an opinion of the school. You might have to pay for this, but it could be very worth it. You can always walk around on your own afterward. If you have specific questions, definitely consider a formal college tour.

Tour while the college is in session.

This isn’t always possible depending on your parents’ work schedules, how far away the school is, and so forth. But if you can, take a day off from school. You’ll be fine: no one day of high school classes is more important than your college decision. Visiting while the school is in session lets you see what it looks like on a typical day with typical kids at typical times. Maybe you’ll find that the average student isn’t someone you could see yourself spending time around, or maybe the school is less crowded than you had heard. If you go during the off-season, like summer, it will seem a lot more bare. You’ll have a harder time deciding where you would fit in at an empty campus than you would at one that’s full of students.

Talk to some students if you have questions.

College tours are great, but if you still have questions you’re going to want them answered. Get the attention of a student and see if you can ask them any questions you have. Most students are more than willing to help you out, and the advice you get from them will be real.

Ask if you can see what the dorms look like.

Maybe he will take you up to look at his dorm and you can get an idea just what you’ll be living in at the school.

Walk all over.

Don’t just stay around one section of the campus — walk all over it. See as much as you possibly can. Some schools have very nice sections, but the rest of it is a trash heap. Sometimes your first impression is wrong. Make sure you see all of the school.  Also, make sure you’re walking. If you drive, you’re going to miss out on a lot of details.

Explore the nearby town.

Last but not least, when you aren’t on campus, you’ll be in the town. Would you move into a house without seeing what the town is like? Of course not — don’t do the same with your college. Drive around (it’s okay to drive now) the streets near the school, the downtown, and any other places you could see yourself spending time at. Some schools are nice, but the nearby towns are awful. Make sure the town is appealing to you a bit also.

College tours are one of the most exciting things about choosing where you want to go to college. Each one is a whole new experience and possibility for you. Try to tour anyschools you’re considering attending, and even some you haven’t given much thought to. The school you least expect could end up being a gem in your eyes down the road.