Better Questions to Ask on a Campus Tour
As university campus tours begin to emerge from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, it is becoming clear that visiting campus will look very different. Campus tours will be entirely outdoor, reduced in size, social distanced, and most likely masked. Many of the students with whom we work will be just fine with that, as they have been asked to navigate the college search without the single most important informant of their college tastes: being physically on-campus.
What has not changed is the importance of getting the most out of the time you do spend on campus, which comes down to asking thoughtful and good questions - even if those questions are spoken through a 2-ply mask.
Here’s our Golden Educational Consulting top list of good questions to ask an admissions officer or tour guide (we’ll also include below a bonus list of questions for faculty, in case you are meeting with one).
But first, here’s what NOT to ask:
What is the student to faculty ratio?
What is the average class size?
What is the retention/graduation rate?
What percent of students live on campus?
Or ANY other kind of statistics-related question that could be easily looked up online. If you are a client family of Golden Educational Consulting, we have all of this information ready at your fingertips through our MyGEC CollegeHub anyway. Not only are these questions a waste of the admissions officer’s time, they tell you almost nothing about the heart and soul of that campus. That’s why we’re on a mission to encourage you to ask better questions on your next tour. Questions like:
What is your favorite campus tradition?
The answers here could range from big all-campus festivals, sporting events, school songs, cheers, all the way to the small nuances of an orientation rite.
The students who love being at this college, what do they have in common?
Ideally, you are trying to find a college environment that you will love, so asking the individual to describe students who have a deep affinity for the college is a way to get past all the cliches like “smart, but also fun loving.”
What is something many people often say about this college that in your opinion, isn’t true?
Remember, there is no perfect college; they all have pros and cons, just like everything in life. Admissions tours specialize in only highlighting the positive so it is imperative to (subtly) probe into some of the downsides of the college. Asking a question that allows the person with whom you are speaking to correct the record on some aspect will tell you a lot about the college, and in a way, highlights those negatives.
Where is the best place to eat on campus and off?
This is an easy one because everyone loves to give recommendations on finding good eats. Even better is to ask about certain kinds of foods that are your favorites, like “I love good Thai food, is there any place nearby that you would recommend?”
I love to [insert favorite activity . . . like dance, hike, run] can you do that around here?
Obviously, you would phrase this in the way befitting of the activity, but asking about specific activities you enjoy is vital to learning if the campus will support the specific quality of life activities you will want and need.
What is the best way for students to get around campus?
Are they walking, biking, or taking the bus? Or if the campus is located in an urban environment, are students getting around in Ubers or the subway?
How popular is study abroad and what are the most popular destinations for students?
Instead of asking “do you have a study abroad program” which doesn’t help since most campuses do have some kind of abroad programming, ask some deeper questions about the types of study abroad and locations that will yield a more telling answer.
Tell me about how academic advising is handled? How will I know what classes to take?
Universities differ widely in terms of how they support their students’ academic pathways, especially in terms of who is doing the advising. Will this university have professors advising you, or will it be graduate assistants, or perhaps professional advisors?
If you are talking with a current student or tour guide: Where is your favorite study spot?
This will tell you many things: 1) how studious is the student body, and 2) do they list multiple locations? Do they just say “the library” or do they go on and on about quiet places around campus.
As promised, here’s a couple bonus questions if you are talking with a professor:
What drew you to want to teach here?
This is a very easy softball opening question and allows them to talk about the teaching and learning culture at the college.
What is your favorite class to teach?
You can also follow this up with “is there a specific lecture or talk that you especially like to give?” Professors love to talk about their areas of specialization. If you know in advance what professor you are going to meet with, do some light, non-stalker-esque research on their area of expertise. If they gave a lecture on a topic you found interesting, ask them about it. But try not to be creepy about it.
When you think about the most successful students in your program, what are they like?
This is a more specific version of the aforementioned question. It is open ended and allows the professor a wide range of answers.
A FINAL REMINDER: No matter what, DO NOT forget to write a thank you note to anyone you met with one-on-one. It’s just the right and kind thing to do.
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