Touring college campuses can be one of the most exciting parts of the college application process. Below are some of the best questions to ask your tour guide to gain the insight you will need to decide whether or not you would really like to attend that school.
What is an unexpected or surprising thing about this college that you would want a prospective student to know? Three-quarters of Princeton alumni marry another alumnus. A Stanford student has won a medal at every Olympic Games since 1908. The statue of John Harvard at Harvard University actually depicts a friend of the sculptor’s. Who knows what secrets your prospective college holds?
How does the college encourage students to engage with and learn from the local community? Perhaps the school offers service-learning courses, conducts community-based research projects, or supports partnerships with local organizations. If community engagement is important to you, you will want to find out how the college you are touring would help you, as a student, make those connections.
What are some unique or lesser-known extracurricular activities in which students can get involved on campus? A sustainability club that organizes outdoor cleanups? A student-run organic farm? An improv comedy group? A Harry Potter club that hosts book discussions and movie screenings—and maybe a Quidditch match or two? You never know what kinds of fun, unusual activities the college you are touring might offer—unless you ask.
What are some common misconceptions that people have about this college or its students, and why are they wrong? Maybe you have heard that students at the college are all extremely competitive, when in fact the school fosters a collaborative and supportive community. Perhaps the college has a reputation for catering exclusively to wealthy or privileged students, but it actually has a strong commitment to diversity and offers generous financial aid packages to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Asking this question can help dispel any such misapprehensions.
Are there any campus traditions or rituals that are particularly memorable or interesting? Each year, the University of Chicago holds the largest scavenger hunt in the world. At Barnard College, students are offered a midnight breakfast on the night before the first day of finals. Princeton University hosts a bonfire whenever its varsity football team wins games against both Harvard and Yale in the same season. Such traditions can be an exciting, unforgettable aspect of your college years.
Can you share a story or experience that showcases the unique character or culture of this college? Perhaps your tour guide participated in a student-led protest for climate justice that highlighted the school’s encouragement of activism, social justice, and the creation of positive change. Each school has its own character and culture. Asking your tour guide about them can give you a much better sense of the institution that you are considering attending.
What type of academic support services are available to students? Tutoring? Academic advising? Writing and language centers? Disability services? Study groups and workshops? Such services can be invaluable when facing the academic rigors of college life.
Can you tell me more about the student housing options and what it is like to live on campus? Does the college offer traditional dorms? Suite-style housing? Apartments? Students often find that living on campus provides easy access to classes and campus resources, and many enjoy the sense of community that comes with living among their peers.
How do students typically spend their free time, and what social or cultural opportunities are available? Students at colleges around the country often spend much of their free time participating in extracurricular activities, attending campus events, exploring the local community, and socializing with friends. On many campuses, there are cultural opportunities like art exhibits, concerts, theater performances, and film screenings. College isn’t all about classes and study sessions. You’ll want to know what there is to do when you put the books down.
How does the college support student mental health and wellness? Many universities offer a range of such resources, including counseling services, health centers, and wellness programs such as yoga and meditation classes. There may also be student-run organizations focused on mental health advocacy and support.
How does the college incorporate sustainability into campus life and operations? This can take many forms, such as implementing programs to reduce energy and water consumption, promoting environmentally friendly transportation options, employing green building practices, and offering sustainable dining options. If environmental issues are especially important to you, this question should be near the top of your list.
Can you share some examples of experiential learning opportunities in which students have participated? Experiential learning opportunities vary widely depending on the college, but some examples include internships with local businesses, study-abroad programs, research assistantships with faculty members, and service-learning projects with community organizations.
How accessible are professors and instructors outside of class? While accessibility to professors and instructors outside of class varies, many colleges offer office hours, one-on-one meetings, or online communication channels like email or messaging apps to allow students to connect with their instructors and get the help they need.
Can you describe the general academic and social atmosphere on campus, and what type of student would thrive here? Is there a particular focus on academic rigor? Extracurricular activities? Social engagement? Perhaps the atmosphere on campus is scholarly and collaborative, with a focus on intellectual curiosity and engagement that tends to draw students who are motivated, curious, and passionate about their academic interests. Asking this question can help you decide if the school you are touring is the right fit for you.
How does the college support the development of students’ creative and artistic talents? Does the school offer arts and music programs, host performances or exhibitions, or provide access to specialized facilities like art studios, music practice rooms, or theater spaces? If you are an artist or performer—or are hoping to become one—access to such events and opportunities can be an essential part of the college experience.
Can you describe any unique facilities or resources on campus that are available for student use? Such resources might include state-of-the-art research labs, specialized libraries or archives, outdoor recreation areas, or even student-run bakeries or coffeehouses. Each campus is unique, and finding out how can be a great way to gain insight into the college you are touring.
What types of dining options are available on campus? Do most students eat in university dining halls? Are there kitchens in the dorm buildings? Can you get food delivered to your room? Some campuses even have all-night food trucks, perfect for fueling up during those extended study sessions. Thinking uses a lot of energy, so you are going to have to be sure that you know where the eats are.
What is the most exciting or innovative academic program or research area at the college? Cutting-edge research in biotechnology or artificial intelligence? Interdisciplinary programs that combine multiple fields of study? Community-focused initiatives that address pressing social or environmental issues? College is a time for exploration and pushing boundaries, so be sure to find out how your prospective school can support such pursuits.