If you can't judge a book by it's cover, you can't judge a college by its brochure... although it sure would be a heck of lot easier and whole lot cheaper! But it's college tour time if you are a senior. If you're a junior, you may visit schools in the spring and start getting ideas about what type of school you are looking for to narrow down your options: big school v. small school; city school v. rural school; school with a campus or untraditional feel; etc. For me, when I was visiting schools, I kind of knew, at first, more what didn't feel right until I finally found the one school that just felt like "home." Since then, I've sort of been basing my idea of the perfect school around that one school. But here's a more defined list of college tour tips & tricks to help when you visit schools!
1. Always let the school know you are visiting, even if you aren't taking an official tour. Yes, they keep track of this stuff. Yes, it can really matter (depending on the school). Also, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. But clean up your feeds first!
2. If you are taking a college tour, go to the website and sign up in advance. Don't just show up the day of and expect to join an official tour. College admissions are crazy busy, and tours are packed. Make the most of your visit and be sure to schedule an interview, wear something appropriate but comfortable, and meet with the admissions rep of the school you are interested in (i.e., Business School, Art School) so you don't have to return later. Also, check and see if there are any official tour dates with overnights coming up so you can get a feel for what the campus is really like and what the dorms, cafeteria and social life feel like when parents aren't around.
3. Get business cards from everyone you meet so you have them available when questions come up after your tour. And send thank you notes to those people. Handwritten ones on real thank you cards (we love the ones from Minted, they rock.)
4. During the tour, check out the cafeteria, gym, library, bookstore and bulletin boards. They have information you'll need for daily life - you won't be doing a drive-by, you'll be here for 4 years. Try to eat in the cafeteria and just sit back and listen to see what students are talking about, the more time you can spend on campus, the more of a "real" feel you'll get of what your life might be like. My mom says, "It's amazing how the weather and your mood that day can influence your decision, so we need to slow down and spend some quality time while we are here!" And yes, she's the one on the tour asking about safety, library hours, how many people have cars, what % are greek, etc. If you see us on a tour, run.
5. If you can sit in on a class in a subject area you are interested in, do. Find out about class size and whether or not students are able to get in classes they need for their major, especially a major you think you might be interested in at this point.
6. If you are interested in sports, talk to the coach of that sport. Interested in clubs or programs, visit them.
7. Another thing my mom always says: "Is this what you think college feels like?" If not, we move on.
8. Last, but definitely not least: take notes. You think you will remember everything, and maybe you will; but I couldn't. After tours were finished, everything was jumbled in my head and notes helped.
If you have any college tour tips to share, please do!