Choosing which college to attend can be an intimidating task. There are so many out there, with different degree programs and atmospheres. Each campus has its own culture, amenities, and quality of education. Fortunately, there is an easy way to help narrow down your search.
Touring a university’s campus is one of the best ways to figure out if a school is right for you. Once there, you’ll be able to get an in-depth view of campus life, the living spaces, and meet faculty and staff. You’ll see with your own eyes what it’s really like to be there, not just imagining through pictures.
Tour guides are trained to answer your questions and show you all the important places you’ll need to know. Dorms, dining halls, academic buildings, and the like will be crucial stops for a tour. These stops are musts, but what should you be looking for besides the obvious? Here are some good factors to keep an eye out for while on a college tour.
- How the Dorms Look
You’ll definitely want to know the living conditions you’ll be facing for up to the next four years of your life. On a campus tour, you’ll be able to view a model dorm room and see exactly what living there is like. The guide will walk you through the place, show you the bathroom, and discuss features.
Some dorms look great in pictures, but are not so pretty in real life. Inspect the floor and walls, the furniture, the bathroom. Do they look okay? Could you see yourself sitting on that bed? Let’s be honest — dorms usually aren’t going to be beautiful. They’ve probably been there a long time with little to no remodeling. Potentially thousands of people have lived in those rooms. Depending on the college’s budget, they might not be professionally cleaned over the break.
Imagine all of these factors while you tour the dorms. If the dorms look dingy, don’t compromise. You don’t want to force yourself to live in conditions below your standards.
- The Campus Culture
It might be a little-known fact, but the best time to take a campus tour is during the school year. In the summer, practically nobody is on campus. If you go during break, you won’t be able to truly see what the culture is like there. A ghost town is not a good example.
During the height of either the fall or spring semester, you can see the daily hustle-and-bustle. In other words, you’ll get a realistic view of what life will be like there. You can see how crowded it might get in the halls and if people look like they’re enjoying themselves. You’ll be able to get in on the real action.
One thing in particular to notice is the students. How do they look? Do they seem nice? Or, do they seem unapproachable? Can you see yourself fitting in? It’s hard to be the new person anywhere, but it’s better to be able to envision yourself amongst the crowd. This is the campus culture.
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Some campus cultures can be academic-, party-, or sports-driven. When you’re there, try to determine which one that school is. Do you like sports? If not, don’t go to a school that seems propelled by its sports success. Additionally, you can figure where most of the budget goes if a college is very sporty.
- Who Your Advisor Is
If you already know what program you’re going into, you’ll be able to talk with an advisor for your degree. You can ask program-specific questions and get actual answers. But remember, this is probably who you’ll be stuck with for the rest of your college career. If their recommendations seem all wrong based on what you’re saying, you might not have the best time there.
It’s good to meet your advisor in advance because they hold some of the keys to your college success. They recommend courses, can sign you up for classes, and help you plan your schedules. When you’re there, try to go through your degree program and discuss your options. For example, if you want a minor but don’t know which to choose, they can help you narrow it down. They might base it off your interests or by what compliments your major best.
If you think your advisor can understand your wants and needs, that’s a great sign. However, if you feel the opposite way, maybe think twice. Advisors are supposed to help you with all your academic needs. If you don’t feel like they’re understanding you, that’s a red flag.
- How the Food Looks
This just might be the most important thing you can learn! Food is fuel, and having access to good, healthy food on campus is important. Information on dining halls is usually very vague on college websites, so try to stop there on your tour.
Note some things while there. What does the food look like? Does it look good or unappetizing? What kind of options are there? Do you see any vegetables? You might have dietary restrictions, and not all college dining halls are inclusive.
Taking a peek at what a college dining hall serves its students can tell you a lot about the school. If the food looks subpar, then they might have a small budget for dining. Just remember you’ll have to eat that stuff, so make sure you can.
Keep an Open Mind
Not every college has a huge budget to buy top-notch amenities. Don’t be too harsh. With prices rising, they can only do so much. However, if you feel you wouldn’t enjoy yourself at such a place, don’t go. Don’t compromise. Go with your gut.
That’s why it’s so important to go on a campus tour. Without a behind-the-scenes look, you could have found out too late. It’s better to know how a college is up front than finding out during the semester. Transferring can be a nightmare.
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