Category Archives: College Visit

College Visits: Ten Mistakes to Avoid


As a college-bound teen or parent, you have likely been dreaming of visiting colleges for a long time and are excited about getting that first-hand feel for the college atmosphere. It is a big decision, many times made with emotional gut responses – that needs to based on purpose.

The college choice is secondary, purpose is first.
If you are up against a time clock and need to get on the road, you’ll want to jump into our ten mistakes to avoid listed below. You’ll also want to do some up front strategic thinking to articulate a purpose for attending college so the final college choice is the best for your long-term goals. Here are the strategic questions that must be addressed before you take those first steps on college campuses.

  1. What is your purpose for attending college?
  2. What are your career goals?
  3. What are the educational requirements for the career you want to pursue?
  4. What employers and industries will be your primary targets once you graduate?
  5. What educational achievements do employers in your career path value most?
  6. Will you need an internship as part of your college experience?
  7. Which college or university should I visit?

Colleges and universities will show off their best stuff (see Mistake #8). Before you invest in a visit, be sure you know some facts and figures about the university. We recommend a great resource called College Navigator as a “must use” information repository. Whether you have already made up your mind or need to narrow your list of choices, this site has extremely important information you won’t find available on campus. For example, would you want to visit a college that has a first-year retention rate of 50% or a four-year average graduation rate of 40%?

College Visit Facts and Figures

For many students and parents, the strategic questions seem so difficult that they are bypassed by the rationalization “we’ll figure it out later”. Even some education scholars have suggested high school students aren’t capable of finding valid answers to those questions until perhaps their sophomore year of college. Yet, these same academic scholars expect students to make the decision to choose a college or university.

From a career planning and coaching perspective, the questions above are exactly what should be focused on in high school. The answers will evolve and student confidence in those answers becomes stronger with an intentional approach to the research process. AND, you’ll have a much more positive and fruitful college visit experience. Most if not all high schools as well as colleges and universities don’t offer effective guidance and support to answer these critical questions. The Career Coaching for Students™  program provides a proven and effective method for answering these questions in a manner that empowers the student and eliminates the fog.

Before you plan the college visit road trip…
Learn from those that came before you.

As you plan your college visits, consider the following ten mistakes many students and their parents have made. To get the most out of your college visits, avoid making the same ones.

Mistake #1 – Not registering with the admissions office either before or during your time on campus

If you don’t check in at the admissions offices, colleges have no way of knowing that you were on campus. Visiting a college and letting them know you were there can strengthen your chances of admission, because it shows you did your due diligence–commonly referred to as your demonstrated interest.

Visiting a college and letting them know you were there can strengthen your chances of admission, because it shows you did your due diligence–commonly referred to as your demonstrated interest.

The more you can connect with a college by attending an information session, taking a walking tour, emailing or interacting with admission officers on social media or attending events in your local area, it will seem to the college and the admissions officers that you’ve done your research. They can be fairly confident that you will accept and enroll if offered admission to that school. Even if you are doing a self-guided tour, make sure the admissions offices know you’re on campus.

Mistake #2 – Not researching or making pre-arrival plans prior to visiting

Whether it is knowing where to park or setting up a appointment to meet with a current student in your major, a professor or advisor or admissions counselor while on campus, it’s important to do your college visit research before you travel.

For instance: Parking can be difficult at many colleges and universities and parking tickets can be costly (based on personal experience of this author). Knowing where to park (and to not park!) will save you both time and trouble.

Although you might be able strike up a conversation with a student or two while on campus, and we do recommend that, there is a good chance that you won’t be able to spend extensive time with a student or professor unless you have planned the meet-up in advance. There are opportunities to meet students, the dean of the specific college at the university you are interested in and professors and advisors in the college, you just need to reach out and get commitments and contact information before arriving on campus.

For the more introverted student, this is an opportunity to “pretend” to be an outgoing and people-oriented person. You’ll be rewarded greatly for going outside your comfort zone. Think of it this way, you aren’t expected to know anything. If fact, high school students who don’t ask questions or present a false presentation of being all knowing are rated much lower by those you meet – and yes some of those you meet will be making notes and passing judgement to the admissions staff. There will be a file built about you.

Mistake #3 – Not having complete contact and meet-up information for your time on campus

Having each day planned out with times, meeting places, maps and all contact information will make your trip run so much smoother. Even with detailed, daily itineraries at their fingertips, we have heard that some students have forgotten to go to appointments (wow!) – not a great first impression. Imagine how much more difficult it will be to navigate an activity-filled day without a planner with this information readily accessible. [By the way, the Career Coaching for Students guidebook is a 3-ring binder that transforms into a college visit organizer.]

Here’s an example: If you’re stuck in traffic, a meeting has run long or you’re lost on campus, having contact information at your fingertips will make it easier for you to let someone know you’re still on your way.

Hotel can’t find your reservation or you arrive late at night? From personal experience, our hotel reservation had been changed inadvertently by the web-based booking agent and we didn’t know it until arriving at the hotel counter. It worked out in the end but it added a level of stress to an otherwise exciting journey. Having your confirmed booking information on your daily itinerary will make it easy for you to retrieve your reservation. We had ours.

Mistake #4 – Don’t be “that parent”

You expect your teen to be respectful and cordial when on campus, so don’t be that parent that other students and parents will talk about after the tour. Remember, this is the teen’s time to explore. It is your student who needs to ask most of the questions, to get the feel of the campus and the college community. As a parent, try your best to fade into the background while also enjoying the experience with your teen. Chances are, if they’re like most teenagers, they won’t feel at ease asking questions if you’re right beside them or overpowering them. It’s ok to ask questions but don’t be the lead, DO follow. Be helpful but not overpowering. Many deans and professors will actually ask the parents to sit in the waiting area so they can meet with the student one-on-one. We applaud this tactic. Parents, if they don’t take this proactive step, bow out and let your student meet without you.

collegecampusfallMistake #5 – Not taking time to explore the campus on your own

Be sure to allow time to look around at all aspects of the college. Let your teen wander around on their own if they want. Visit areas you might not have seen on the campus tour. Ask the tour guide what they recommend. For example, is s/he interested in the performing arts? Find out how to visit the facilities on campus. How about the fine arts? Would it be possible for someone to show them around the studio? The library? The intramural athletics facilities? Taking the time to explore is well worth the time and effort. As subjective as it is, taking a little extra time will help your teen determine whether or not the college is a good fit for their personality and short and long term goals.

Mistake #6 – Don’t miss the opportunity for your teen to spend an overnight on campus

Some colleges offer an overnight program. Staying overnight can be an ideal second visit strategy. If this is available and something your teen would like to do, check with the admissions offices – as far in advance as possible – to find out if they offer the opportunity and if so, when these arrangements are available, their particular policies, and when to register – the spots do fill up quickly! This is one of the most valuable experiences that your student can have during the college search process; many students miss this opportunity either because they don’t know about it or because they plan too late.

If your teen does arrange an overnight, make sure you both have secondary contact information in case a problem arises; and have a talk with your son or daughter about their responsibilities when on campus. We’ve heard some stories of visiting students heading off in their own direction and not communicating with their host as to where they are. You and your teen should discuss in advance what they hope to get out of their overnight experience and understand that they are guests of the college.

Mistake 7 – Not asking relevant questions

Whether visiting as part of a group or with parents, students should be prepared with questions. Your teen should do some research before they arrive on campus so the questions they ask are those that through their research they have not found answers to – this will allow them to benefit the most from the time they have with tour guides and admissions staff. Some teens hesitate to ask questions because they are shy or afraid they may sound foolish. Others hesitate because they do not want to annoy the others in the group by holding up the tour. Neither fear is warranted.

Neither fear is warranted.

In fact there’s no better time to ask questions than during a campus visit. If your teen has questions in mind, they should ask them. Refer to our other article, College Tours: Questions to Ask on a College Visit – And Who to Ask for a starter list of great questions. It will help them make informed decisions.

When it comes to asking questions, the student conducting the tour is a great warm up opportunity. Also ask admissions staff, teaching and laboratory staff and even current students you meet throughout the day.

Mistake #8 – Getting impressed by the bells and whistles

Campus visits are a great opportunity for colleges to sell their services to eager students and parents. While most colleges and universities do deliver on their promises, they tend to highlight their best side while downplaying some of their shortcomings. The landscaping along the driveway will probably be immaculate and you are likely to hear about the number of volumes in the library, the new sporting or theater facility or hi-tech classrooms. Don’t be immediately swayed. Look around and ask questions.
During your campus visit, it is important to stay focused on what matters most to your teen. But you can also pay attention to the things that will make a difference to you as a parent. For instance, if you know your son or daughter is interested in studying in the STEM fields, check out the labs and the research facilities – don’t get caught up in the hype about the rock wall.

Mistake #9 – Not making the effort to gather ‘insider’ information

To find out how things really work, spend some time getting insider information from those who have nothing to gain — current students. Sitting down and having coffee or lunch with a current student will provide valuable insight into the things that really matter to your student. Before the day of your campus visit, find students through Facebook or other social media that attend and make a list of questions to ask students. You’ll find juniors, seniors and recent graduates are likely also on LinkedIn.

Questions your student might ask are:

  • “What do you like most about the college?”
  • “Why did you choose this college?”
  • “What’s it like to live in this college dorm?”
  • “What does your typical weekend look like?”
  • “Might you tell me what don’t you like about the college?”
  • “Do you find the professors, administrators and staff helpful/supportive?”
  • “Can I text you if I have additional questions?” (ask for their phone number)

Mistake #10 – Discounting the importance of the surrounding area

Ignoring the surrounding area is a mistake that could impact your teen’s whole college experience. Each community surrounding a college is completely unique. Let’s say you live in a rural area and your teen is visiting a college in a big city with very little campus area or the campus is spread out in a patch work manner. If you have time, hop on a bus or subway that may be the primary transportation that your teen will use often. Find out where the dorms will be – will it be too noisy? Are they within walking or biking distance to most classes.

If your teen comes from a bigger city with a lot going on, how will it feel to be in a more suburban or rural campus? How easy is it to get to the grocery store or Target? Does the school provide transportation or do they contract with the public transportation system of the city?

Surroundings do matter. Your teen will be spending four to five (?) years in college and it is important to not be in the wrong setting. Spend some time discovering the restaurants, cultural centers, museums and other facilities that the neighborhood offers and ask your teen if this is a place where they would be happy to call home.

A campus visit can give you and your teen great information. Information that will help them make the right college choice.

College Visit Checklist by Career Coaching for Students

College Board campus-visit-checklist

Career Coaching for Students College Visit PROs and CONs Worksheet

Tap here for other articles that may be of interest on our blog.

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5 Reasons Parents Should Invest In Career Coaching for High School Students

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What to do after you receive the college acceptance letter


Receiving an acceptance letter from a college is an important moment not just for the applicant, but their family as well. Jeffrey Brenzel, ex-Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Yale University says many families have no idea what to do when the acceptance comes in. Getting an acceptance, though joyous, can also leave you a little bewildered on what you should do next. An intentional decision-making process will ensure your happiness and success.

Here is an optimal step-by-step approach to what you should do after receiving the acceptance letter.

1. Wait for letters from other colleges

If you have applied to more than one college, it is best to wait and see if you get a response from a college you prefer over the current one. Colleges start sending out letters by mid-March and for most colleges, the National Candidates Reply Date is in May. However, make sure you go through the documents and check the stated deadline.

2. Compare costs

If you have received an acceptance letter from multiple colleges, conduct a cost comparison. Do not look at just the tuition fees, but take into consideration other expenses such as cost of food, cost of living in the city, transportation, hostel fees, cost of books and any other expenses you might incur. Do a comparative analysis and discuss it with your family. Take into account the loan amount you plan to take.

Subtract any confirmed grant or scholarship money and be sure you are able to meet the net expenses comfortably. Ask yourself, “Can I afford the cost or do I need to pick up a part-time job? If I have to work, can I juggle my studies and the job, without compromising my grades?”. Keep in mind, if you perform very well in your freshman year, you may be eligible for a scholarship for your sophomore, junior or senior years, but don’t be dependent on that happening.

3. Re-visit the campus

Hopefully you have already visited the campuses where you’ve applied. Make sure you re-visit your top two choices. These days students apply to multiple colleges, and therefore, it becomes difficult for admission officers to assess how interested the applicant actually is. If you visit the campus and show your interest, this acts as an important factor for your candidature.

As per a survey conducted by The National Association for College Admission Counseling in 2015, a very important factor for freshmen were a student’s demonstrated interest. According to the survey, this is what the admission officers look for:

“The top factors in the admission decision for the Fall 2015 admission cycle were: grades in college preparatory courses, strength of curriculum, overall high school GPA, and admission test scores. Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank.” – NACAC

Let us break these down so you can perfect your score in all these areas and up your chances you securing your seat, because some colleges do rescind their offer if their conditions are not met.

  1. Grades, admission test scores, class rank and teacher recommendation- These can be achieved by dedication, discipline and perseverance.

  2. Overall high GPA – Getting accepted into a college should not make you lose focus on your high school grades. Most letters have a conditional clause which indicates your overall GPA needs to be a minimum for the acceptance to stand valid. Declining grades or disciplinary actions can cause the colleges to revoke the offer. So do party after getting your letter, but get back to work soon after!

  3. Admission essay – Writing an admission essay can be tricky. While this essay is supposed to bring out your thoughts and is a platform to state your personal goals, but remember the essay needs to be professional and succinct. If you are not too sure about how well your essay reads, contact the best essay writers and take their assistance to improve your essay writing skills.

  4. Your demonstrated interest – As stated above, visiting a college campus not only substantiates your interest to the admission officer, but also gives you a lot more information about the college. It is advisable to attend a class so you can know about the quality of instructors, or attend a regional event on the campus, or just spend a day to get an overall feel about the campus. Ask yourself, “Do I envision myself coming here every day and liking it?”. See if you fit into the campus “politically, religiously and geographically” as suggested by Robert Franek, Vice President- Publishing, Princeton Review.

4. Internship opportunities

Check out the different internship opportunities offered within the major at your accepted colleges. Also ensure they offer the majors you are interested in. Choose a college that scores high on these two factors as they determine an important part of your growth.

5. Connect and investigate

Kiersten Murphy, Director, Seattle-based Murphy College Consultants says you need to be a “great investigator“.

Some good avenues you can check to know more about the college, apart from visiting the campus, are:

  • Check out their blog. This usually speaks volumes about the college culture.
  • Find out how many students return after the freshman year.
  • Find out how many students graduate.
  • Talk to current students, alumni of the college and staff from the college.
  • Connect with people in Facebook groups, LinkedIn and other social media communities.
  • Talk to your high school counselor or college advisor. Chances are they may have additional information and useful insights.

While it is a great idea to connect with people and get their thoughts, but be discerning and know how to differentiate opinion from fact.

6. Get social

Attend a local alumni gathering. You will not only get to meet people and make friends, but many times these early connections can lead to future job prospects. Once you’ve accepted and are told who your roommate will be, reach out to get to know them. You can also discuss who would bring what for sharing in your dorm room. Don’t put this off to the day you show up on campus!

7. Don’t be passive

Most colleges appreciate if the student stays in touch with them throughout the admissions process. Keep them informed about your latest grades or updated GPAs. It is also wise to have your teacher or high school counselor send a letter, but do not assume they will do it on their own. Take the initiative to approach them and request them to do it. Any letter of recommendation from your teachers has a lot of value.

However, some colleges have a handful of admission officers and bombarding them with frequent updates can be annoying, and might even hurt your chances of acceptance. But this is a recommended way if you are planning to get into a small college.

8. Ask for an extension, if required

If you need some more time to arrive at a decision, write a letter requesting for an extension. If you do get it, use the extra time responsibly to make the decision. Do not make the mistake of sending deposits to multiple colleges to buy time. This is not only unethical, but colleges might retract their offer if they find out.

What should you do if you receive a list letter from a college?

Receiving a conditioned acceptance letter (aka, wait listed) can be difficult and leave you frustrated. In such cases, it is advisable to go ahead with some other college where you received a confirmed offer. Do not pay any deposit fees to be on the wait list. Talk to your high school counselor or college advisor to discuss an action plan and get more clarity on the way ahead.

Hurray! You have chosen the college! What’s next

Read all their documents and make a list of what you need to send them. You will need to send:

  • forms completed thoroughly and correctly
  • your letter of acceptance and confirmation
  • the deposit
  • letter requesting financial aid, if any
  • any special needs or disability requests, if applicable

Write to the other colleges

Do not forget to write to the other colleges you received acceptance from to let them know of your decision. Write them a grateful letter thanking them for their acceptance and declining your interest. This will help the admission officers sort out their list and contact the wait list candidates to join them.

Use an intentional decision-making process to choose the best college for you, one that you will be happy to be a part of, and that will help you achieve your professional goals, but remember to be realistic with your expectations. Keep in mind what Brenzel, Yale University, says – “Remember above all else that no college is going to be paradise, and that all colleges have something outstanding to offer you.”

Meenakshi VenugopalMeenakshi Venugopal is a guest blogger and the co-founder of Hashtag17, a company that specialises in web designing and development, graphic designing and social media marketing. When she is not working on projects with her clients, she guest blogs on education, technology and management. She is a contributor on Entrepreneur and JPost.

Livia SusanLivia Susan is a business manager who recently started Lifesaver Essays after being a freelance research and writer for over 6 years. She has helped numerous companies and individuals with their web strategy, social media strategy, content, blog posts, and much more so their companies could establish an identity of their own. With the start of her own education company, Lifesaver Essays, Livia plans to make education better and easier for students.

College Tours. Questions to Ask on a College Visit – And Who to Ask


College Tours. Campus Tours. Questions to Ask on a College Visit – and Who to Ask

Visiting your prospective colleges before you make a decision is smart. If you can’t visit one of your top choices, conduct phone interviews with multiple college staff and students. Either way, you have a great opportunity to make a more informed decision if you take the opportunity to learn from the people who study, work, and teach on campus first. By asking the right questions, you can gain a strong sense of a school and its culture, far beyond the facts and figures on its website.

201109-w-college-campus-notre-dameTo make the most of your visits, you should prepare thoughtful questions to ask on each college visit. The college tour is just one part of your college visit. Set your goal to meet with more than just the college tour guide and watch the promotional film or PowerPoint slideshow. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive college visit checklist of questions for your tour guide, current students, admissions officers, financial aid officers and professors. Plus, we’ll offer some advice on what not to ask.

Do the Research Before You Arrive on Campus.

You’ll see a few links highlighted throughout the article that refer to different pages on Student Resource Central, an online e-binder of relevant and highly valuable information. Between Student Resource Central and the college’s website, you have 90% of the information needed to make a good college choice. That last 10% will be revealed on campus and is equally critical.

About Shyness.

Get over it. You and/or your parents are about to spend a great deal of money (even if you have a full scholarship) for your education. If you were buying a $70,000 car, you’d probably ask a few questions and take it for a test ride before buying it. This is your opportunity to make an informed decision for you. Don’t let the circumstances hold you back from asking the questions you want and need to ask.

If you are considering colleges – then you have earned the right to ask questions – and get answers.

Why Are College Tours Important?

You can check out the school’s facilities, like the library, dorms, dining halls, gym, and science labs, as well as branch out to see its surrounding city/town culture. Gathering your impressions of your college’s campus and beyond will help you gain a much stronger sense of whether or not it’s a place you’d like to live and learn for four years. First impressions usually carry a heavy weight. However, many students who ended up going to their “2nd choice” for reasons out of their control report adapting and loving their “2nd choice”. At the end of the day, loving or hating any given college choice will be in your control.

We recommend having three designations for college choices after you have completed your due diligence. Sort your college choices into A, B and C groups. The A group is for your strongest matches – those that offer exactly the major you are wanting, the college is visited and supported by industry-related companies that employ students in your major and/or for your career interest and have great facilities, culture and top quality academics. Group B is for those colleges that offer something that fits what you want to major in, have reasonably good connections with industry representatives in your field of study and have an acceptable level of facilities and campus life. Group C is for those you have clearly decided to reject for any reason.

Keep in mind, an amazing visit is actually a subjective evaluation using fabricated events. When students have an amazing visit they typically feel much more empowered to put together a stellar application. If you find yourself applying to one of your “B group” choices, be sure to approach the application with the same enthusiasm as if it were your first choice. That B choice may just be the best choice.

collegecampusfallBesides sampling the dining food or hanging out on the quad, you can also learn about the student experience from your tour guide who is usually a current student, and other current students that you meet (summer tours present less opportunity to see the campus the way it will be during the busy Fall and Spring semesters).

Even the other student visitors on the tour with you are valuable connections. Ask them why they are considering that college, what major and career direction they are considering. Set up meetings to speak with admissions officers, financial aid officers, and/or professors. Those meetings are not advertised, and the admissions folks may even say they don’t want you meeting with professors. However, most deans and professors enjoy meeting with prospective students. Keep in mind they are needing to market their offerings so it is in their interest to take the time to meet with you.

Prepare.

Current students, tour guides, professors and deans can offer their unique perspectives and experiences, especially if you ask meaningful college visit questions that lead to broader conversations.

Before you hit the road, be sure to do your homework. Student Resource Central: Education Research: Search Colleges and Universities has incredibly rich data on pretty much every college, university and most vocational schools. You’ll want to know about costs, financial aid and perhaps most importantly, graduation and retention rates.

College Search Results US Dept Education College Scorecard

Choose questions based on your specific interests and who you are interviewing. Modify each question as needed. If a question asks about popular classes in general, for instance, you can adapt it to ask specifically about popular classes in, say, the Biology Department.

Questions to Ask Your Tour Guide or Other Current Students

Most college tour guides are big fans of their colleges and are enthusiastic to share why. They tend to know lots of history and fun facts about the school, but you shouldn’t necessarily expect them to rattle off specific data and statistics about graduation rates and financial aid packages (save those kinds of questions for administrative officers) along with the information you collected through the resources mentioned above.

Tour guides are usually current students, so they can also speak to their personal experience. Remember, they were in your shoes just a few years before!

The following questions are divided by academics, support resources, internships, study abroad programs, extracurricular activities, residential life, and general culture. Finally, we’ll suggest some personal questions for your tour guide. As you read, consider which questions you’d like answered, and how you might customize them to meet your specific interests and needs!

Questions about Academics

  • What majors are considered this universities signature programs (which colleges are ranked higher compared to similar colleges/universities)?
  • Which majors/programs are recognized by employers based on number of internships and offers upon graduation?
  • How large are the required classes? [These will be larger. Some universities will have as many as 75 – 150 in their larger classes. The more common core the subject, the more likely it will be large.]
  • What courses are you aware of that offer especially innovative or creative learning experiences? Which classes have been most interesting to you so far? [The student may not be in the major you are considering. This question is more for gaining insight into the types of class delivery that is at the college/university that you may not have experienced in high school.]
  • Are the professors accessible outside of class? What has been your strategy for accessing the professors. Do the professors hold office hours? How often can students interact with professors outside of class?
  • What kind of classes have smaller section meetings? What are they like?
  • Are there any especially popular classes or must-have professors? [either for core required classes or if the student you are talking to is in the major you are considering]
  • When did you choose your major?
  • How much freedom do freshmen have in choosing courses?
  • Are students usually able to take their first choice courses?
  • How’s the Wi-Fi? How’s the cell phone coverage? Which providers provide the most comprehensive coverage? [some college campuses don’t have the cell phone coverage you’d think they would have]
  • How are freshman advisors assigned?
  • How would you describe the freshman experience, in terms of advising or any classes that everyone has to take?
  • Can undergraduates work with professors on research?
  • Are there honors programs? If so, what are they like?
  • Declared Double MajorIs it easy to change your major? Can I enter as a freshman with a double major?
  • How many hours of class do students typically have each week? How many hours of homework outside of class per day/week?
  • Are finals more exam-based or project / essay-based?
  • Where are your favorite best places to study on campus?
  • What are the hours for the library? Do these change during reading periods or exam weeks?
  • Are there any research methods or online tools I should learn about for my classes?
    • Do any majors require seniors to write a thesis or complete a senior project?

Academic and Social-Emotional Support

  • Can you get help from professors outside of the classroom?
  • What free academic support or tutoring is available?
  • What kind of resources are there for international student support and orientation?
  • What kind of learning disability resources does the school offer?
  • Is there a writing center to help with essays and research papers?
  • Are academic advisers accessible and effective?
  • Do the librarians help with research?
  • Do students organize study groups or online discussion forums?
  • Are there computer labs available with the required software?
  • How accessible and helpful is health services?
  • Are there opportunities to participate in organized conversations about issues and events with administrators, deans, professors and other students?
  • Describe the social orientation programs for freshmen? Are they required/recommended/optional? What was the most valuable thing students talk about after attending an orientation program?
  • Is there career counseling available? Have you received career counseling? Was it helpful?

Research, Internship, and Study Abroad Opportunities

student volunteers

  • What kind of opportunities exist for undergraduates to work on research or academic projects with professors?
  • What kind of internships are available? Do a lot of students get internships? What is the typical strategy for getting an internship?
  • Are any departments known for obtaining internships for most or all of their students?
  • Do any majors prepare students to continue as researchers in a Master’s or doctoral program?
  • Are study abroad programs popular? Any ones in particular?
  • Do most students study abroad on a program through the school or an external program?
  • Do students of certain majors, like engineers, find it difficult to study abroad?
  • Are there internship opportunities abroad?
  • Are there opportunities through the school for summer internships or research?

Extracurricular Activities

  • What are some of the most popular extracurriculars and why?
  • What are some of the larger campus-wide community service events?
  • What intramural sports or exercise classes are available?
  • Can you talk about the ____ club? (Examples might include the student newspaper, student magazine, international relations clubs, art groups, science clubs, musical performances, plays, bands, ensembles…whatever you’re interested in!)
  • In what ways do students connect with and volunteer in the surrounding community?

Residence Life

  • How many students do they really squeeze into those dorm rooms?
  • What are the dorms like? Are there lounges, laundry, and kitchens? Shared or private restrooms?
  • Do certain dorms have a focus or appeal to students with different interests, like a “healthy living” dorm or a dorm for pre-med and science majors?
  • Do most students live in the dorms? What about after sophomore or junior year? When do most students move off campus? How much cheaper is it to live off campus?
  • Are any students placed in dorm triples?
  • How are the resident counselors? What social events are planned for freshmen to get to know one another?
  • Do most students get along with their randomly assigned roommates? [Roommate assessment and guide]
  • What would I do in case of a conflict or need for a room switch? Is that possible?
  • What kind of food does the dining hall serve? Are there different options? How is it, really?
  • Does the dining hall accommodate special dietary restrictions?

Campus Culture and Surrounding Area

  • Where do students tend to hang out on and off campus? Friday/Saturday nights?
  • Are there movie theaters and concert venues? What about good cafes for getting work done or finding the perfect pumpkin spice latte?
  • Do a lot of students belong to fraternities or sororities?
  • How ethnically diverse is the campus?
  • What percent of international students are there? What countries do they come from? [this will likely be answered in the formal presentation]
  • Do students stick around or go home on weekends?
  • What’s the party scene like? (This might be a question to ask current students away from the group tour.)
  • Have there been any recent student protests? What were they protesting, and how did staff and faculty respond?
  • What are some big campus events, like homecoming or alumni weekend?
  • Is it easy to get around campus or get off campus without a car?
  • What transportation options are there around campus?
  • Is it a safe area to walk around at night? What kind of safety measures are in place?
  • Do many students work on or off campus? How easy is it to find a part-time job?

You don’t want to put your tour guide too much on the spot, but you should feel free to ask about her experience at college!

Personal Questions for Current Students

  • What’s your favorite class and why?
  • What’s it like to study in your major?
  • How helpful did you find your freshman year advisor?
  • What do you wish you had known going into freshman year?
  • What do you wish you had asked on a campus tour when you were in my place?
  • What’s a typical weekday like for you?
  • What surprised you about campus life here?
  • Is there anything you wish you had done differently to improve your experience here?
  • Are there any things you’d like to change about the school?
  • What would be your most important advice for freshman?
  • What’s your favorite spot you’ve discovered on campus since arriving?

For more technical information on admissions policies and financial aid offers, you might set up meetings with the relevant offices. Read on for questions to ask the administrative staff.

Questions to Ask an Admissions Officer

StudentSupportDirectionSignsMaking contact with the admissions office can not only get your questions answered, it can also get your “demonstrated interest” on file, which may help when it comes time to reviewing your application. Rather than appearing as an anonymous applicant, admissions officers may recognize you from a meeting, email, or other records of contact. Not all schools keep track of this, but for many, your visits are noted in a file and demonstrating interest by the number of visits may help show your enthusiasm for the school and thereby give you a an edge over applications that don’t show any visits.

If you want to meet with an admissions officer, make sure to set up a meeting via email or calling beforehand. If it’s application season, usually March and April, try to schedule this a few weeks early to make sure they’re not too busy to meet with prospective students. Then have your list of questions ready to show that you prepared and are ready to make the most of your conversation.

NOTE: Students who have investigated career directions, have a good plan and have decided what major or double major they want to pursue in support of that career choice are very attractive to most universities. Share your career interest and choice of major with your admissions office. If you haven’t done the career exploration work just yet and are undecided about a major, we suggest engaging a professional career coach.  In a couple of weeks you can have clarity about your direction, a plan and feel confident about pursuing your interests.

  • What qualities and experiences are you looking for in applicants?
  • What do I need to know about the application evaluation process?
  • My SAT/ACT scores are ___. How large of a role will that play in the admissions evaluation?
  • I imagine you review hundreds of applications. What best advice or pet peeves do you have?
  • Is there any difference for early versus regular decision applications? Is early decision more advantageous.
  • What percentage of students graduate in four years? [see if this aligns with the information from the website resource listed above]
  • What sort of student attributes are most likely to lead to success here?
  • What sort of student might not be happy here?
  • Can you tell me about career placements?
  • Do graduating undergrads typically get accepted to the grad school?
  • What services are available to help students prepare for post-grad employment?
  • Who can I talk to that would have the most insight into employment options and support for the major/career I’m interested in.
  • Do you have an active alumni network?

Questions to Ask a Financial Aid Officer

College Financial Aid Game: How to Get Your Fair Share E-Book Offer

Get the E-Book

Just as the admissions office will have lots of facts and advice about the admissions process, the financial aid office can walk you through your financial application. The next section covers questions you might have for them.

Most schools offer a good deal of information about the cost of tuition, room and board, books, and other fees through online resources (see above resource), as well as the steps to take to apply for financial aid. If financial aid’s an important factor for you, it could be helpful to meet with an officer and make sure you’re doing everything you can to get your financial needs met. Also see Student Resource Central Financial Aid and Scholarships resources for valuable information and free e-book, The College Financial Aid Game: How to Get Your Fair Share.

Research available online resources first, so you’re not asking about info that’s readily available online. Then you can use that base knowledge as a stepping off point for other queries, like the ones below:

  • What kind of need-based financial aid do you offer?
  • Do you meet 100% of demonstrated financial need?
  • What information do you require besides the FAFSA?
  • How many students receive merit-based scholarships? How much is offered?
  • Are there other scholarships that students can apply for at the time of application?
  • How much loan debt does the average student owe after graduating?
  • Can I renegotiate my financial aid offer if it’s lower than I need?
  • What are some opportunities for work-study?

Questions to Ask a Professor or Dean

Finally, meeting with a professor could be a great way to make contact and learn about a department and class, especially if you have a strong sense of what you want to study. You can learn about their teaching style, the department’s approach, and any opportunities for independent projects or research. Contact the office of the Dean and ask the staff member how to arrange a prospective student meeting with the Dean or Professors. Also ask if there are any special days that the college will be holding special events that will be of value.

 

  • What are the general expectations for students in your class?
  • What is your advice for students to succeed in your class? What separates a grade of A vs a B from your perspective?
  • What are typical requirements, like exams, papers, or presentations in a semester?
  • What is the most important personal soft skills that you see in highly successful students?
  • What knowledge would you consider to be prerequisites?
  • Do you offer opportunities for undergraduate students to do research?
  • What other opportunities are you involved in or sponsor that are outside of the classroom to reinforce my learning, like cultural clubs or festivals?
  • Do you meet with or mentor students outside of class?
  • What are the signature strengths of your program? Department?
  • What’s your vision for the community of students who major in this program? Do they serve as peer mentors, collaborate on projects, form study groups, have a high rate of getting summer internships, etc.?
  • [If interested in grad school] What could I do to prepare for further research at the graduate level? Would I be required or able to write a senior thesis or do an honors program?
  • How much flexibility would I have in shaping my major or taking an interdisciplinary approach? If I want to double major, when can I declare and do I have the flexibility my freshman year to schedule courses to support my double major?

Questions to Avoid on College Visits

You may want to avoid asking questions that are overly personal and not helpful to others in the group when you’re on your tours. While it’s fine to ask about certain departments, DO NOT share your life story and DO NOT ask any one to speculate about your admissions chances.

A final good rule of thumb to follow is to avoid asking basic questions that can be easily answered via Student Resource Central or a quick search of the school’s website. Be prepared. For instance, questions like the following fall into that category:

  • Do you have a psychology major?
  • When was the school founded?
  • How many students are in the freshman class?
  • What was last year’s rate of acceptance?

If you ask questions that are readily answered online, you are losing impression points. All of the official representatives you meet are very aware of what information is available to you. Think about it from the admissions perspective. Do they want students who are self-directed, self-starters and inquisitive or do they want students who depend on everyone else as if they are royalty?

How to Prepare for Your College Tours

collegecampusaerialYour first step is scheduling and signing up online for your college tours, as well as any other meetings or overnight stays. The best time to tour is when classes are in session so you can get the truest sense of the college in action.

Since you should prepare questions and take notes on the answers, I recommend writing them down and bringing a notebook (paper or electronic) to take notes. You’ll be getting a lot of information, along with walking around and seeing everything, so it will be useful to have a record to which you can refer at the end of the day.

You certainly don’t need to go overboard with the college tour questions. I would suggest preparing five to ten of your most important questions for each person (student, admissions officer, professor, etc). You may find you should choose about three during your tour, while you may be able to ask a lot more during a one on one conversation or meeting. Better to over-prepare than under-prepare, and you could list your highest priority questions at the top to make sure you get to them first.

In addition to asking questions and jotting down notes on the responses, you should take the time to observe everything going on around you. Beyond viewing the facilities, try to notice how the staff responds to you or how students interact with one another. Perhaps most importantly, is it a place where you’d feel comfortable?

Finally, spend some time writing, discussing with parents and/or reflecting after your visit. Does the school seem like a good fit with your personality, interests, and goals? Do you feel excited about the prospect of attending? At the end of the day, you must save the final questions for yourself.

Happy hunting.