Learn everything you need to know about campus tours, including what to bring and the best questions to ask
College visits are an important and exciting part of junior and senior year. And what would a college visit be without a campus tour?
If you want to know a lot about a college in a short amount of time, going on an official campus tour is one of the best things you can do. But here’s the thing—campus tours can quickly become overwhelming. Especially if you have more than one scheduled in the coming months.
What can you expect from a campus tour? How should you prepare? What should you bring? How can you make the most of a campus tour and get a good feel for the college you’re visiting?
Keep reading to find answers for all these questions and more. In no time at all, I’ll prepare you to have an outstanding and productive campus tour. Let’s get to it!
What happens on an official campus tour?
Official campus tours are led by someone connected to the college admissions office. In most cases, your campus tour guide will be a current student, which is ideal because you can get an insider’s perspective of the school.
If you visit colleges over summer, spring, or winter break, your campus tour might be led by an admissions counselor because all the student workers are on vacation. You can still have a meaningful experience, but you’ll miss the chance to talk with a current student. Just something to consider.
Whoever your college tour guide happens to be, they’ll lead you around to see the biggest highlights of the college. For instance, you might walk into the library, visit the student center, tour the freshman dorms, or stroll across the quad.
And while you walk the campus tour route, you’ll learn about the college’s history, student life, academic strengths, and much more. An expert tour guide will also share plenty of stories about their experiences to make the tour memorable and engaging.
You can expect most campus tours to last about an hour. And trust me, they’re actually super fun! I’ve toured hundreds of colleges during my time as a college planning consultant, and I’ve never gotten tired of it. I don’t think you will, either.
How to prepare for a college tour
Before you arrive on campus for your college tour, there are a few steps you can take to maximize your visit.
Make sure you know all the logistics for the campus tour. For example, where should you park? Do you need a parking pass? Where do you sign in for your tour? The last thing you want is to be late because you were wandering around trying to locate the right building.
Find answers to the easiest questions online before you attend your campus tour. You don’t need to waste time asking your tour guide about the average GPA or SAT scores of accepted students. A quick online search will give you that info so you can focus on better, more insightful questions.
Write down a thorough list of questions to bring with you on your college tour. You’ll be kicking yourself if you forget to ask an important question while you have your tour guide’s full attention. Not sure what you should ask? Don’t worry, I’ll share a list of campus tour questions later on.
Preparing for a college tour isn’t difficult or time-consuming, but it’s definitely well-worth the effort.
What to bring with you on a campus tour
When you’ve gone on as many campus tours as I have, you’ll recognize the importance of bringing all the right items with you. Believe me, you won’t let yourself get caught without a jacket on a cold, windy college tour more than once!
Here are a few things I suggest bringing with you for your upcoming college tours.
- Comfortable shoes you can walk in for long periods of time. You don’t want to have aching, blistered feet after an hour of walking around campus.
- Weather-appropriate clothes. Check out the forecast before your campus tour. Bring yourself a hat, umbrella, or pair of sunglasses as needed.
- Refillable water bottles. Whether it’s warm or not, you’ll start to feel a little parched mid-way through your campus tour, so come prepared.
- Notebook and pen for taking notes. If you have a parent or sibling with you, consider designating this task to them so you can focus on soaking in all the college vibes.
- A good-quality phone or camera. You’ll want to take plenty of pictures of the college campus—not just to help with your college decision-making, but also to capture the memories of these campus tours.
- A lightweight purse or bag. You’ll need something to carry all these essential items with you, but try to avoid anything too bulky or uncomfortable.
Not bad, right? You don’t need a lot of stuff to have a successful campus tour—just a few basic items to improve your experience.
The dos and don’ts of campus tours
So now you know how to prepare for your upcoming campus tour and what to bring. But let’s talk about what happens on the college tour itself.
Here are a few expert tips on what to do and what not to do on a campus tour.
- DO take an active role on your campus tour. If your parents join you on the visit, you should still be the one asking questions and making conversation with the tour guide.
- DON’T rush through your campus tour or your college visit. Take time to soak in the vibes of campus and get a true feel for student life.
- DO take thorough notes during the college tour and admissions presentation—both about the information you learn and your impressions of the campus.
- DON’T be afraid to ask personal or uncomfortable questions if they’re important—just be sure to take the tour guide aside and ask them in private.
- DO remember to eat in the cafeteria or buy a latte at the campus coffee shop. It’s important to see if you’ll have high-quality dining options before committing to a college.
- DON’T let other opinions overwhelm your own thoughts and feelings. Input from family members or friends can be valuable, but be sure to process your own impressions. It is your college choice, after all.
- DO treat everyone you encounter on your campus tour with respect—from the tour guide to the person at the front desk to the janitor you pass in the hallway. These interactions can be recorded and added to your admissions file.
Above all, remember this—campus tours are meant to be fun! You’re in a unique season of your life. I mean, most colleges you visit will practically roll out the red carpet for you and invite you to join their club. Enjoy the ride.
11 essential questions to ask on your campus tours
As promised, I’ve compiled a brief list of important questions you should ask the tour guide on your campus tour.
Keep in mind, it’s standard for your tour guide to discuss generalities of the college’s history, personality, and campus life opportunities. It’s up to you to ask for more specifics or bring up additional topics that matter to you.
- What academic and support resources are available to students? How easy are they to access?
- How much time does the average student spend studying?
- What do students do on the weekends? Stay on-campus or venture out into the surrounding area?
- How do students get around off-campus? Do most have cars?
- What are relationships like between students and professors? (You might even ask about your tour guide’s favorite—and least favorite—professors.)
- What on-campus jobs are available? And is it competitive to get hired for them?
- What internship and career resources are offered?
- How safe is this campus?
- What are the best or most popular clubs on campus and how many students get involved?
- What is your favorite thing about this college?
- What would you change about this college if you could?
When your tour guide answers these questions, try to dig a little deeper or open up a conversation if you can. The more they talk, the more you learn—and the easier your college decision becomes.
Final thoughts about campus tours
Many aspects of the college admission process are stressful—but going on campus tours shouldn’t be one of them. If you follow these guidelines, you’re guaranteed to have a fun, informative, and productive college tour.
I want to hear from you! What colleges are you touring this year? Have you attended any campus tours so far? And if so, how were they? Please drop a comment below.