If you visit a college, take the tour.
Tour guides will give you basic information, show you around the campus, and answer typical questions regarding class size, student activities, and more. But beyond the typical questions, parents and students should ask some probing ones that dig deep into how the college sees, values, and serves its students.
Here are five questions to ask on a college visit. If the tour guide can’t answer them, ask to be directed to someone who can.
1. Are freshmen classes taught by teaching assistants?
Many of the larger universities use teaching assistants in their freshman courses. Some colleges have professors teach the courses and the teaching assistant really assists. In others assistants, who have varying levels of actual teaching experience, will do the actual teaching. The answer to this question will also give you an idea on the size of the freshmen courses. If class size is important to you and you feel paying for an education from teaching assistants is not worth your investment, the answer to this question should help narrow down the college choice.
2. Do most students stay on campus during the weekends or do they go home?
Why does it matter if students go home for the weekend? It will matter if you will be staying on campus. A student left on campus with little activity or friends will become homesick very quickly. Campuses in large cities or largely populated areas typically have a large population of students who go home for the weekend. My son’s first college was one of these schools. Since he lived hundreds of miles from the college, he could not return home every weekend like his roommate. The result—he dropped out after his first semester because he wasn’t involved, didn’t have friends, and felt homesick on the weekends.
3. Does the college have a career center and does it help students with securing internships?
The minute a student sets foot on campus is the moment to be planning for graduation. That means the career center will be crucial in helping to find internships. An active career center is committed to helping students with career prospects, connecting them with possible employers, and providing networking. Remember: The goal after graduation is to be employed.
4. Does the college have a freshman seminar or an intensive freshman advising program?
The freshman year is key to establishing a permanent relationship with the college. Freshman seminars not only help students adjust to college life, but they give students the opportunity to meet other freshman students. They help with the freshman retention rate and give students the security they need in a new environment with new expectations. Freshman students often get homesick, have roommate issues, and problems with their professors. These seminars can help resolve most of these issues.
5. What would you change about the college?
No college is perfect. Not only should you ask the tour guide this question, you should ask other students. Knowing what students would change is just as important as knowing what they like. Every school will be giving you the best picture of the campus on the college visit. The student’s perspective will be the most helpful here. It will give you a true picture of the college, not just an image and a narrative from the tour guide.
Don’t waste the college visit asking questions you can find out in the college brochure or online at the college website. Take this opportunity to dig deeper and find out more about the college than you already know.