By Josh Moody June 23, 2021, at 9:58 a.m.
A college visit offers prospective students a chance to look past the carefully curated images in marketing brochures and on social media, and get to know a school for themselves. Asking thoughtful questions of campus tour guides can help students better understand a college.
"It is incredibly important that prospective students connect with current students when they are touring universities," Roger J. Thompson, vice president for student services and enrollment management at the University of Oregon, wrote in an email. "Learning about the sense of community, student support services, sense of belonging, value, and what makes a university unique can be really helpful in finding their home."
To help prospective students better understand what to ask on a college visit, U.S. News crowdsourced questions from admissions professionals. In addition to Thompson, the questions below were provided by Monica Inzer, vice president for enrollment management at Hamilton College in New York; Eric Nichols, vice president for enrollment management at Loyola University Maryland; Heath Einstein, dean of admission at Texas Christian University; and admissions consultants Christopher Rim, founder and CEO of Command Education, and Krista Grubb, a principal college admissions counselor at IvyWise.
Some questions have been edited for length or clarity.
In addition to asking these questions of college tour guides and campus officials, Inzer encourages students to wander off the tour route to observe campus broadly.
"You can learn a lot by trying to blend in and experience the place on your own, if you are comfortable doing so," Inzer wrote in an email. "It may not be scientific, but a lot about this process isn't, and in the end you may need to trust your gut feeling on the type of environment where you might thrive. That kind of answer is not always found in stats and ratios and rankings."
Questions About Admissions
Does demonstrated interest play a role in the admission process?
Are there any exceptions to your test-optional policy?
Does legacy play a part in admissions and, if so, who is considered legacy?
Do admissions interviews, if offered, play a role in the process?
Are interviews conducted by alumni, students or admissions officers?
Are there any majors for which enrollment is capped?
Questions About Academics
Are classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
What is the average class size?
How/when do incoming freshmen get course selection advising for their first-semester classes?
Who gets priority in the course registration process – is it by grade level, honors programs, etc.?
How many classes do students take a semester?
Are classes more theoretical or hands-on in nature?
How easy is it to switch majors or schools within the university?
What is the breakdown of requirements for most majors?
What percentage of students choose to study abroad?
Questions About Academic Support
What tutoring services are available?
Are tutoring services free?
How often do students meet with academic advisers?
How accessible are professors outside of the classroom?
What types of resources are available for students with disabilities?
Questions About Financial Aid
What percentage of students receive financial aid?
Are merit scholarship estimates built into the school's net price calculator?
How much financial need does the college typically meet?
How much extra money should I budget for costs beyond room, board and tuition?
Do financial aid packages remain the same over time or are they adjusted to reflect tuition increases?
How do outside scholarships affect a financial aid package?
Do accepted students receive their financial aid award letter at the same time as their offer of admission or later?
Questions to Ask Tour Guides About Student Life
When you first came to the school, how did you get involved?
How did you meet your friends, and what do students do for fun?
Do many students attend varsity athletic games?
How does the school build community and foster cultural understanding?
What are the hot-button issues on campus?
What are some of the school's main events or traditions?
Questions About Campus Housing and Community
Are students required to live on campus?
What percentage of students live on campus?
How do students choose a residence hall and a roommate?
What do students say about living and dining on campus?
Do most students choose to live off campus after freshman year?
What do the campus and community feel like from a safety perspective?
How would you describe the surrounding community and the relationship the college has with it?
Questions About Work and Research Opportunities
What types of research opportunities do students have access to outside of the classroom?
What type of career guidance is offered by this school?
Are internship or co-op opportunities available through the college?
What percentage of undergraduates have had an internship or research experience by the time they graduate?
Is it common for freshmen and sophomores to get research or internship opportunities?
Questions About Student Outcomes
What is the four-year graduation rate?
What are the requirements to graduate in four years?
What is the retention rate from freshman to sophomore year?
What is the average level of student loan debt upon graduation?
Are career advising services available to alumni or only to enrolled students?