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College tours: Your questions, comments, and concerns answered Bella Ferak

Ever since the pandemic began, most college campuses were devoid of the normal hustle and bustle of student life, restricting high school students from in-person college tours. The 2021-22 school year, however, has quite literally opened the doors of many colleges and universities, allowing eager students to tour campuses once again.

Even before high school students eagerly step onto the campus of a college, many are perplexed as to how to navigate the college touring process. How should students decide which colleges to tour? What should students look for on a college tour? Do college tours really even matter?

If you find yourself pondering the same topics, you’ve come to the right place. After speaking to college applications counselors, college students and even officials of the colleges themselves, I’m here to answer all of your touring questions.

Before the tour

In order to complete a successful and worthwhile tour, you must first determine which colleges are worth the visit. Brian LaPorte, the College and Career Counselor at Naperville North High School, noted that there is a duality of importance when considering what colleges to tour.

“At the end of the day, yes, you want to go visit the schools that you are able to attend, but there’s something to be said about just going and getting familiar with a college campus in general,” LaPorte said.

Once you’ve got an idea of potential schools, think about the location. Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city? Narrow your list to urban campuses. What about sunny weather? Southern schools might be the way to go.

Now, consider your potential major. Take some time to look at the programs of the schools you're interested in, and see which ones cater to your interests the best.

Finally, it’s time to think about the cost of tuition. I know this may sound daunting, but don’t worry: student loans are one way to help pay tuition. If you need extra help, most colleges offer some form of financial aid.

Now that you’ve done your research, you should have a list of colleges that are right for you. These are the colleges that you should visit and tour.

During the tour

You’ve finally reached your destination and are now ready to begin your college tour. It’s easy to get distracted by the energetic student life, or pause to check out the new Starbucks in the main hall, but it’s important to remember why you’re here and what you’re looking for.

Pay attention to the feel of the campus while you’re walking around. It’s important that you like the campus and the setting, as you may spend the next four years of your life there. Hannah Steinbrenner, the Coordinator of Campus visits at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noted how important it is to take in the sights and sounds of a college campus.

“You can get a lot of initial information on programs and just information about schools online, but I think you really don’t have a good sense of if that school’s going to be the right fit for you until you actually come on campus for an official visit. That’s by far how I recommend students [to] really make the best college decision,” Steinbrenner said.

The community of a college definitely serves as another important aspect to take into consideration. If you visit a college while students are on campus, take time to observe the environment and feel the atmosphere. Take note of social activities that you may be interested in, such as Greek life, clubs or intramurals.

What matters most, however, is that the school is a good fit for you. At the end of the day, the main question to ask yourself is this: could you see yourself being happy there for four years? If the answer is yes, you may have found a college to further pursue!

After the tour

With your college tour(s) complete, you can now travel further down the path of attending a college. As you do this, it’s important to continue to work hard in high school to ensure acceptance into one or more of these colleges. LaPorte also commented on the importance of your major when applying for a school.

“A student might look at the U of I scatter-gram and be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m totally [eligible].’ And if you’re applying undecided, sure. But if you’re applying to engineering or business, which are incredibly selective programs, you might not get in,” LaPorte said.
Student advice

I asked current college students who were once in your position to share pieces of advice to help ensure a successful college tour. Hopefully, their words of wisdom can help smooth over any remaining questions you may have.

I understand that narrowing down a list of colleges can be an overwhelming task. As the saying goes, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time -- making a checklist, a pros-and-cons list or using any other method to organize your research will help you tremendously while going through the process.

Most importantly, have confidence that everything will work out. Great things lie ahead, so remember to stay on track and make the most of the process.

Credits:

Photography by Lauren Gignac