How to make the most of a campus tour -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

How to make the most of a campus tour

Some high school students apply to 20 or more colleges, and that means the rush to visit them all is a tough grind for both students and parents.

Admissions deans say far too many students do "drive-by" visits without getting a real feel for a particular campus.

Students and parents often agree that college tours can feel ‘canned' and ‘generic.'

So, here's what you need to know to make the most of your next campus visit.

From professional athletic facilities and putting greens, to laundry services and chandeliered performance halls, they're all part of a campus tour at Davidson College in Davidson, N. C.

Most college campus tours are criticized for promoting more of their leisure facilities than halls of learning.

"They're in the business of selling," says Jessica Crum, who is an independent college consultant. "They are trying to sell the college to you."

In defense of those higher institutions of learning, they only have about an hour or two to ‘close the deal.'

"I have students say, ‘I don't want to go on the canned tour.' Well, yes, you do," replies Davidson College Dean of Undergraduate Admissions David Kraus. "We're taking you to places we think are important for you to see."

In addition to the traditional campus tour, Kraus recommends you go beyond the basic sight-seeing a campus offers.

What so many teens don't see on a tour are the students, because too often prospective students visit during the summer.

If that's when you plan to visit, Kraus recommends scheduling a repeat visit when classes are in session and that you make arrangements to attend a lecture.

But that's not all.

You should also eat in the cafeteria to find out about the food, and don't just look at it through the windows. Go in and experience it!

You should also plan to stay on campus overnight. That's because pictures of dorm rooms in college brochures or the rooms you were allowed to see during a campus tour may actually be larger than the dorm rooms assigned to incoming freshmen.

Be sure to ask your guide if students are able to actually sleep wherever their dorm rooms are located, or if the noise at night prevents students from getting a good night's sleep.

Tyler Griffin is a college student who shared another great tip with us: He says new students need to know up front about what happens if they're not in their dorms by a certain time at night.

"What do they do if you get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?" Griffin asks.

You should also find out how the campus deals with issues pertaining to drugs, alcohol and violence.

Campus safety is a growing issue and parents and students should not be shy to ask about it on a tour.

"The best tour is a walking interview," David Kraus recommends.

He also encourages prospective students to make themselves known to campus administrators whenever possible during a visit.

"We encourage students not to be stealth," Kraus adds.

That's because many schools use what's called ‘demonstrated interest,' meaning they want to see how much stock you're investing in them and how interested you really are.

Schools officials tell America Now, showing interest in a school and its programs can give you bonus points toward getting accepted to an institution.

 "There's no downside to demonstrated interest, and you could demonstrate interest at a lot of schools and they don't have to know," Crum advises.

During your next campus visit, be sure to stop by the admissions office and say "hello" to some of the staff.

By taking a few steps beyond what's offered during the basic campus tour, parents and students should leave knowing if the college is a place where the student will feel comfortable calling ‘home‘ for the next few years.

America Now also learned that sometimes colleges and universities partner with big box stores to furnish the dorm rooms featured in brochures or shown during a tour. It's similar to a realtor showing off a beautifully-furnished model home to entice a prospective homeowner to buy.

Ultimately, talking with the students and staying overnight can really come in handy, because people are much more likely to disclose what dorm life and the rest of the school is really like.

Additional Information:
The following information is from Jessica Crum is the president of Jessica Crum College Consulting (

  • Ask about the 4-year graduation rate vs. the 6-year graduation rate, the percent admitted to grad school and which companies recruit at the school.
  • Ask the students how easy it is to register for classes, how hard it is to change majors and what kind of academic advising is available.

The following information is from college student Tyler Griffin who was featured in our story.

  • He recommends asking about parking. He was shocked to find out his parking spot was so far away from his dorm and would cost him $450.
  • He says the way a dorm looks during the daytime is often very different than how it looks and sounds at night.

The following information is from Andy Bills, vice president of Enrollment at High Point University located in High Point, NC.

  • Find out if the school has the academic programs you're interested in.
  • Ask if outside the classroom, the school and town offer what you are interested in.
  • Come back to visit when students aren't on campus.

The following information is from the U.S. News & World Report website in an article entitled, "What Not to Do When Applying to College" (

1. Ask what the transition is like from high school to college.

2. Ask about the food, residence halls, and class sizes.

3. Ask about campus safety.

4. Ask whether the campus has wireless Internet access.

1. Ask about the tour guide's personal experience at the school.

2. Ask why the tour guide chose the school.

3. Ask the tour guide what they would change about the school.

4. Ask about the local town and what is it like to live in that specific region of the country.

5. Ask about the academic and career services available to students.


1. Avoid personal finance questions.

2. Avoid asking very personal questions of the tour guide. (their GPA, SAT, etc)

The following information is from in an article entitled, "Virtual Campus Tours Gain Popularity With Colleges, Prospective Students" (

  • Colleges are using digital formats to eliminate the restraints time, cost and attention spans for parents and students.
  • A company called YouVisit, creates virtual walking tours for universities. They say about 80 percent of applicants would visit no more than four college campuses physically. Students indicated that campus visits were a major factor in their decision making.
  • YouVisit gives a tour resembling a "souped-up Google Street View with an undergraduate narrator." The tours showcase major landmarks on the schools' campuses likely to be covered by in-person tours.
  • Other companies offer tours where a student must fill out a profile of their academic interests before being allowed to explore the school grounds. This information is sent to the school's admission's office, where a live admissions representative is available to offer suggestions to the student via headset or instant messaging based on the students' interests. The student can also fire back questions to the admissions representative about the school.

The following information is from the website Peterson's in an article entitled, "Ask the Experts: Campus Tour and College Visit" (


  • Parents and students are encouraged to visit several college campuses in the fall of junior year primarily to gain a sense of the different types of colleges and environments that are available. *Several companies offer programs to help families plan and execute campus visits, including:
  • Bring a notebook, workbook, binder, or journal in order to take notes during information sessions, write down immediate reactions to the campus, and list key additional questions you'll need to answer about the institution. You can also bring a disposable camera or video camera to interview tour guides and take photos.
  • At least one parent should try to accompany a student on at least some of the visits he or she makes to colleges. The key is to allow students to take the lead in campus visits, and to let them offer the first responses to any given place. It's OK to disagree about colleges, and to discuss varying viewpoints. The ensuing conversation can help a student continue to define what the best environment will be for him or herself.
  • You need to ask a question, or preferably more than one, that relates to your particular areas of interest. If you are certain you want to be an engineer, then you should ask a question about what it's like to major in engineering at the college. If you are thinking you'll be a recruited athlete, you might want to ask what it's like to be an intercollegiate athlete on campus.
  • On a first visit, you should spend about two to three hours on campus. That allows for about an hour for the campus tour and another 45 minutes or so for an information session. Usually the info session is conducted by an admission officer, and the tour given by a student. If you are able, you might consider another hour for strolling around campus, eating lunch on or nearby the campus, and walking or driving around the outside of the campus area.
  • Two colleges in a day is reasonable, one more if they are close together. Four or five in one cluster in a couple of days is manageable. Seeing ten in one bunch is usually overwhelming. We like students to see between six and sixteen colleges over the course of their admissions exploration. Sometimes, you'll want to see a college twice prior to committing Early Decision, and certainly prior to enrolling.
  • One very important recommendation: do not commit to attending a college in the spring of your senior year until and unless you have visited the campus.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.