Going on college campus tours can be a little overwhelming for a 17-year-old who still watches Saturday morning cartoons. After all, you're only deciding where you're going to spend the next four years, thereby altering the entire course of your life!!!!!!!
Don’t let fear and pressure paralyze you, though. Going into a tour with a checklist of things to look out for will help you make the most informed decision when you finally enroll. Study this guide and you’ll be sure to get an A in college life!
1. The setup. When you first arrive on campus, check out how everything is oriented. Is the campus centralized in a compact area? Or is it spread out, with several quads where co-eds read, chat, and throw Frisbees? Do people walk, bike, or bus it from class to class? If large crowds of college kids intimidate you, maybe a big public university just won’t feel right. If you don't want everyone all up in your biz, maybe a huge school is the right choice for you.
2. The weather. We recommend checking out a campus at the coldest time of year so you see it at its worst. For example, if you’re thinking about attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, visit in January to see if you can endure the winters there. If you are able to fall in love with a campus while it's covered in an apocalyptic sheet of ice, you'll be in heaven the rest of the year.
3. The vibe. While your campus tour guide drones on about the history of various beautiful buildings, keep your eyes locked on students making their way around. Does the campus seem to have a variety of people? Do you see athletes in school-issued sweatpants riding from class to class on scooters? Do you see indie chicks passing out flyers for an upcoming show? Do you see people lugging around their instruments? Envision yourself here. Will you be able to find friends among these half-adults? You should feel a sense of some belonging from the beginning; it will only get stronger the longer you stick around.
4. The amenities. If you’re looking for a dorm that offers single rooms, ask your tour guide if that's an option. If you're the athletic type, see if you can get a day pass to the fitness center for a quick sweat session, and try to see the football team play while you're in town. Make sure you plan a lunch in the dorm cafeteria so you can let your taste buds in on the decision-making process. While none of these things should be deal-breakers, if something really matters to you, whether it’s extra space, exercise, sports, or food, don’t let yourself compromise too much.
5. Academics. Be sure to ask the college guide for information on your intended major. After all, you’re coming here to learn stuff, right? Just remember that while you might plan to major in one thing, it’s not uncommon to switch gears. If you have any other areas of study you might be interested in, ask about those as well. In addition, make sure to see where everyone goes to study. By visiting on-campuses libraries and coffee shops, you’ll get an idea of the mentality of the school and its students.
6. The Main Street. What you’ll be doing outside of class is almost as important as your studies. Head down to the main drag and check out what it brings to the city. Are there places to catch concerts? Are there funky stores and cute restaurants? Picture yourself out with a group of friends on a Friday night and see if you get excited. Also, consider what else there is to do in the nearby area. Are there places to go skiing or hiking? Can you get to a big city quickly to hit your cravings for shopping, art, culture, or whatever else you’re into?
What do you look for on college campuses?