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    Categories: EducationOpinionWeekly Columns

Back-to-School: How to Take a Self-Guided Tour of a Potential College or University.

(ThySistas.com) Choosing a college or university can be very difficult, especially if you don’t have anywhere particular already in mind. You’re making an important decision about where you’ll spend the next four years studying, making friends, and writing obscene amounts of essays (probably at the last minute).

This is why college visits are so important. Oftentimes, however, these visits are either pre-scheduled at inconvenient times or, if you can make them, really don’t let you get a proper feel for the school itself. Why? Well, obviously, the people giving you the tour are trying to get you to come to their school, so they are trying to sell it to you, not show it to you for what it really is.

But take it from a current college student: a self-guided tour can reveal so, so much more even if you do take a guided tour.

Here is how you can do so without forgetting or missing anything:

Items on the Checklist:

  • Directions
  • Camera
  • Notepad/journal and something to with which to write
  • School map

Use these items to document your tour. You will want to take pictures of the campus, buildings, the area, the town, etc., and will want to write down details of significance, such as where the laundromat is, how far the dormitories are from the campus, if there are apartments available, etc.

You can generally find school maps on the school’s website or request one from them to be mailed to you. You can also probably go directly to an administration office, such as student life, and ask for one. Many schools have them on hand and are eager to give them to you.

Places to Go:

  • Everywhere on campus
  • Throughout the local town
  • Through the nearby towns, especially if the immediate town is small

First, you will want to explore the campus. Look around and see what’s in the area. Start at one end and work your way all over the area, making sure you see what facilities are available, such as gyms, pools, etc. Check out the residence halls and dormitories. Ask students currently attending there a few questions. Tour through the education buildings. Note where the library is and if there are other educational facilities, such as computer labs. Find the cafeteria and if there are other places to eat on campus.

Once you have explored campus, explore the town. See if there are any banks, gas stations, food places, grocery stores, laundromats, and other places you might need to go. Check to see if there is anywhere interesting to hang out with your friends.

If you don’t want to live in campus dorms, look around for available apartments. Make sure to do your due diligence when looking at apartments. You might want to get their contact information while you are in town, especially if you are traveling a far distance.

In small towns, such as the one my school is located in, there isn’t much of anything; we have to go a town over to get gas. In a case like this, it is important to note how to get to nearby towns and what might be there that you can’t find in your college’s town.

Questions to Ask:

  • Do you like it here?
  • Are the professors good? Do you learn a lot?
  • Are the staff helpful?
  • What’s the food like?
  • What are the other students like?
  • What are the dorms like?
  • Are their laundry machines in the dorms or do you have to go to a laundromat?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • How often are breaks? How long?

Anything that you can think of to ask – ask it. Don’t bother with the normal mumbo jumbo about financial whatevers. Leave that for your enrollment and financial aid advisors. While you get the chance to talk to actual students, talk about what it is actually like to live there, not just the technicalities of actually enrolling in college.

It might be beneficial to make a list of questions to ask before you go. That way you can remember to ask everything you might think to ask.

Remember to jot down (legible) notes and to snap pictures. They don’t have to be photographer quality. They just need to be clear enough for you to review them once you aren’t actually looking at those buildings or places.

At the end of the day, remember to trust your instinct. Any fast talking salesman can make a sleazy dormitory seem like a good choice. If anything seems off, your gut feeling will lead you in the right directly.

Choosing a college is an important decision. Take the time to be thorough and you’ll slide right into a great four years of quality education.

Staff Writer; Shelia Porter


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