Easily the most exciting aspect of the college application process (aside from the acceptance letter) is the college visit.
The campus is alive with students walking to and from classes, discussing the intellectually stimulating topics of the day—or the mistakes made the night before. Groups gather under trees and in the student union, all free from the watchful eye of parents. In many ways, a college visit is a means to project yourself into the future, to see yourself in a new time and place and to see if it fits.
What sold me on the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for my undergraduate studies was the campus tour. The tour guide—a senior majoring in English—brought our group through campus and regaled us with facts and anecdotes, all of which revolved around what the university had to offer.
Though the guide was informative, and at times funny, what convinced me UMASS was the place for me were the answers to the questions asked by other potential students.
In order to fully suck the marrow from each college visit, consider asking some, if not all, of the questions below.
1. “What convinced you to go to this college?”
Ask your tour guide this question directly. Many tours are scripted. If they’re not, the guide already knows his or her talking points. This question will flip the script and should elicit an honest answer.
2. “What’s campus life like?”
This is an all-important question since the campus culture of a particular school is a big deciding factor for many students. Do you want a quiet, reserved environment like that found at many liberal arts colleges? Or do you want a more robust, active climate? The answers to these questions may narrow your search.
3. “What career and academic resources are available?”
With attending college comes increased expectations. Moreover, many larger schools have, more or less, a sink-or-swim ethos. That said, lots of colleges have tutoring and career services that can aid you along the way. Knowing where you can get help if you need is crucial.
4. “What work-study opportunities does the school offer?”
Work-study programs can offer a lot in the way of helping pay down any debts you may acquire through tuition. Finding out about the opportunities the school offers can help you decide if an on- or off-campus job is best for you.
5. “What percentage of students joins a fraternity or sorority?”
For some colleges, it’s Greek-life or no-life. For others, fraternities and sororities play a minimal role. Either way, it’s important to consider the role you’d like Greek life to play in the campus culture of your dream school.
Summing It All Up
Going to college and making it meaningful means taking an active role in your own education. The same could be said for your college visit. Try not to be a passerby while weaving from building to building. Instead, ask the questions that peak your interest. The answers may lead you to the one that matters most—“Is this college the right choice for me?”