Planning for college can be one of the most exciting and frightening experiences of your life. The Internet, social media sites, and word-of mouth are always a big help, but a college tour is still irreplaceable. When the time comes to further your education, plan for a tour and keep these red flags on your radar.
Lack of Information. The point of a college tour is to gain information that will help you make a decision on whether or not to attend. Pay attention to the tour itself. Yes, it is important to see the stadium and student hangouts, but your purpose for attending is to get an education. Key places of interest should be the library, health center, business offices, dining facilities, and dormitories. The tour should be organized and informative. The guide should be fully capable of answering most of your questions. If “um” and “I’m not really sure” become too frequent, a second tour may be required.
Unfriendly Staff and Students. Starting college will definitely give you the first day of school jitters. Try to make conversations and connections with current students and faculty during the campus tour. If you get the cold shoulder or feel that students and staff aren’t approachable now, that probably won’t change later. It’s also wise to find out how many students are commuting versus those living on campus. You should feel a warm welcome. If you don’t feel like you fit in, it may be wise to look at your other options.
Unkept Campus and Surroundings. Universities plan tours to attract potential students and make a great first impression. Is the campus landscaped and free of debris? Are the buildings and hallways clean? On a trip to my number one choice, I noticed major construction, which made it hard to get in and out of campus. During the tour, I observed vacant buildings with broken windows and several “out of order” signs on restroom facilities, printers in the library, and vending machines. Vending machines may not matter but a university that doesn’t take pride in maintaining its property may not be worth your time or money.
You Don’t Feel Safe. Pay attention to your surroundings. What type of community surrounds the university? Unfortunately, some universities are nestled in the middle of some not so nice neighborhoods. Ask questions about crime on campus. No one hopes for the worst to happen but if it does, there should be emergency phones scattered about and campus police available. As you walk about campus during the tour, you should feel comfortable and at ease.
Understaffed and Understocked. Growth is always good if you can keep up with it. Find out about student to faculty ratios. If you are going to major in the sciences check out the laboratories. Is there enough equipment? Does the bookstore have trouble meeting demand? Library facilities should have enough equipment for students as well however it’s not unusual to meet capacity during midterms and finals. If this is a concern check out your department, some usually have smaller computer labs for students in their program to use.
Luckily, there are various resources to help you select the school to best help you meet your life goals. You know you best, but it can be intimidating. If you’re not sure or feel overwhelmed get family members involved. As you make the first big decision of adulthood, the key is to trust your instincts.