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.
The following information is from Jessica Crum is the president of Jessica Crum College Consulting (http://www.jcrumcollegeconsulting.com/).
The following information is from college student Tyler Griffin who was featured in our story.
The following information is from Andy Bills, vice president of Enrollment at High Point University located in High Point, NC.
The following information is from the U.S. News & World Report website in an article entitled, "What Not to Do When Applying to College" (http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/right-school/tours/articles/2010/04/02/questions-to-ask-on-college-campus-tours).
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.
DO NOT ASK ABOUT:
1. Avoid personal finance questions.
2. Avoid asking very personal questions of the tour guide. (their GPA, SAT, etc)
The following information is from TheHuffingtonPost.com in an article entitled, "Virtual Campus Tours Gain Popularity With Colleges, Prospective Students" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/06/-campus-virtual-tours_n_1747542.html?utm_hp_ref=college).
The following information is from the website Peterson's in an article entitled, "Ask the Experts: Campus Tour and College Visit" (http://www.petersons.com/college-search/ask-experts-college-visit.aspx).
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