The Speedy College Tour

What to be sure to do on campus if you're pressed for time.

Posted Mar 31, 2019

'Tis the season of the campus visit, and so here I offer suggestions for how to have a successful one if you're truly pressed for time. If time is not as much of an issue, please check out my previous article about campus tours. As a college professor for over 20 years, I am convinced that college visits are crucial and that there are some shortcuts you can take to try to get the most out of them. Take notes to review them later. Things run together—and especially in a tight timetable. Most of all, ask yourself: Can you imagine yourself there? Do you feel inspired to begin to build your life there?

Tim Gouw/ Unsplash
Source: Tim Gouw/ Unsplash

1)  Be sure to visit schools only when they are in session. It is a colossal waste of time to visit if the school is on break. The purpose of the visit is to get a sense of the energy, of what makes that campus special and different and possibly the one that could be yours. 

2) Don't hesitate to ask questions. This is your chance to speak with students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community off campus, to get a feel of what the school is like and what the surrounding area/town is like. In this day and age, it sounds hard to stop strangers and ask but think about if the roles were reversed and someone was visiting your hometown and wanted to ask a few questions to best feel welcome, or wanted some recommendations; you would likely be receptive and helpful. People usually want to share about the place they call home. 

3) Pay attention to signage. Signs, posters, advertisements, etc. are everywhere on campus and can tell you so much. Contained on flyers is valuable information about the school's calendar of events, special programs, lectures, field trips, sponsored excursions, movie nights, performances, musicians, dancers, poetry slams, boating adventures, camping trips, hiking clubs, gaming groups,  etc. You can also get a good feel for the sorts of support services offered since these are often advertised around campus---i.e. writing center, career center, student success center, counseling center, LGBTQ center, religious organizations, victim support services, office for students with disabilities, health services, study abroad office, etc. You can learn what does and does not exist on campus and why. It is also useful to read the bulletin boards inside buildings and the outdoor kiosks to see what sorts of activities are happening. 

4) Perhaps the most important place to visit is the student center or student union---this will likely reveal the most about the vibe of a campus. Here, you can see firsthand if lots of people are hanging out, alone or together, and you can imagine what it might be like to be in a space like that, enjoying solitude or companionship. Also, you might notice how many students commute or live on campus. You will want to ask about this as it dramatically shapes the feel of a campus, especially on nights and the weekends. Are students out and about or mainly holed up in dorm rooms on video games and Netflix? 

5) Plan the day such that you can eat on campus or at least grab a snack. You will gain exposure to the array (or lack) of offerings and it is a great place to do #2.  

6) Drive around the periphery of the college setting to see what the larger community is like in terms of safety and what it offers in terms of walkability, social life, housing for later in college, potential job opportunities, outings to get immersed in nature, perhaps in the woods, by lakes, at beaches, in the mountains, etc.

7) Go to the campus bookstore and go well beyond the sweatshirts and gifts. Students should check out the books being assigned in the classes in which they might want to enroll.  

Good luck on this amazingly transformative adventure!