You will be asking a lot of questions during your visit. Your goal should be to get answers from the people who are actually part of each college community.
Do not limit yourself to questioning the formal tour guide, admissions officers, or financial aid staff. You might find that a professor or group of students can provide you with more accurate answers and diverse perspectives. And don’t be afraid to ask—most people are proud of their college community and will be glad to help.
What to Ask Admissions Staff
- What services does the college offer incoming freshmen to help them settle in academically and socially?
- What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
- What is the average class size and does it vary by year?
- Who actually teaches the classes? Professors? Adjunct professors? Grad students?
- What meal plan do most students choose and how much flexibility do you have in where you get to eat?
- How diverse is the student body and what percentage come from in-state versus out-of-state?
- What kind of social activities are offered to students and are there any restrictions depending on year?
- Is there enough housing for all students?
- How many students live off-campus once they have completed their first few years?
- What are the career counseling options open to students?
- How soon do you have to declare a major and what options are open to you if you change your mind?
- Does the college arrange internship opportunities for students through partnerships with outside companies or organizations?
- What’s the percentage of students who start here and actually graduate with a degree?
- How successful are undergraduates in finding permanent jobs once they graduate?
What to Ask the Financial Aid Office
- What do your financial aid packages typically consist of and how big a role do student loans play?
- What is the average amount your students owe once they graduate?
- How much has the total cost of attending the college gone up over the past three years?
- Do I get the same tuition rate for all four years or is there a chance the tuition will go up?
- What’s the average number of years that students go to this college?
Go to the school that shows they want you there… A top tier school has thousands of others who are on the waitlist, and if you get in without the help you want or need, and you have conveyed that, they don’t really want you. If a school has offered you scholarships, early dorm selection, honoraries and such, that school wants you and wants to impress you. I wish I’d known this so long ago when I applied (in 2009!). -Neil K., Duke TIP alum
What to Ask Professors
- Do students have academic advisors and are they staff or faculty?
- Do you teach many classes, or are they taught by adjunct professors or grad students?
- Are there any programs to provide students with mentors, such as professors or upperclassman?
- How involved is the faculty in mentoring students, guiding campus organizations, or being involved with community service projects?
- Are there any opportunities for students to become involved in research or other projects either for credit or for extra credit?
- What are the options for students who need extra help beyond the classroom?
What to Ask Students
- What do you do in your free time and over the weekend?
- What is a typical day like for you?
- Do you usually get the classes you want when you register?
- How easy is it to register?
- How good is the food in the on-campus facilities?
- What do you love most about this college?
- Why did you choose to go to this college? Did it turn out to be true?
- How does the college promote student participation in extracurricular activities and clubs?
- What would you like to change about your college?
When in Doubt: Google.
If you are having a hard time coming up with the right questions or feel like you’re missing something, use your world-wide web-based resources to give you some suggestions or a little guidance. With this in mind, remember to use some of your face-to-face time to ask questions that you won’t be able to Google the answers to after your visit (i.e. anything not on the brochures, websites, etc.).
Also, try to note down or remember those things that are part of the experience of being there. First impressions are important. Observe your “gut” reactions to the five senses:
- See. What are the aesthetics for campus, buildings, dorms, location/setting, etc.? Is campus busy or calm? What are the freshmen dorm rooms like? What are the upperclassmen rooms like?
- Hear. Go beyond the spiels. How are people treating each other outside of the visitor/campus representative interactions? How is the ambient noise (will it affect your studying/sleep)? What kind of reaction/answers are you getting from your “off-paper” questions?
- Smell. Hello, dorms; we’re talking about you. Also, classrooms, dining halls, lobbies/common areas, campus paths, etc. However, it’s about more than “stinky” or not. Think about your lifestyle and how you’ll be affected. Where are people allowed to smoke? Is there a familiar food smell that will remind you of home?
- Taste. Food, glorious food! Try to visit as many different dining spaces as possible to know the full range of options. Keep in mind: the food that is served to you will probably be the best-tasting offerings they have. How do you like it? How accommodating for dietary restrictions are they?
- Touch. Okay, this is more about your physical comforts. What are the classroom chairs like? Dorm furniture is pretty uniform, but is there something special that you like? What relaxing options are available outside on the quad?
Campus visits can be overwhelming or exciting, or both. You don’t have to learn or remember everything. Take some of the pressure off and ask: can you “see” yourself there?