College campus tours are a bit like a safari. It’s your first time in the wild, you’re mystified by the range of species and how they’re interacting with each other, you’re told to observe, but not to engage.
The thing is, unless you’re a zoologist, or a baboon, it’s tough to know what to be looking for.
Visiting a campus and being able to picture your life there can be a deciding factor when making the big decision, so to ensure that you get the most out of it, consider these 5 things that a creature of the wild would have you look out for:
1. Student Lounges: As you start to take more of the same type of classes you’ll end up in the same academic building for the better part of a day. Whether you’re floating adrift between a class that ended at 2:00 and one that starts at 3:30, or are scampering up two flights of stairs to a class that starts in 15 minutes, your student lounge will ultimately become your hub. Take a look around the lounge, if there is one, and make sure that it’s not overly cramped, it has tables big enough to seat a study group, and that the food options are varietal and moderately priced. If you’ve decided on a major, pay extra attention to the particular student lounges in those buildings.
2. Greek and University Clothing: Even more important than the amount of guys or girls wearing Pink Floyd shirts to a noon class is the amount of guys or girls wearing Greek Letters or university shirts. This speaks not just to the amount of fraternities, sororities or sports teams, but to the level of pride for each one. A lot of Greek shirts mean that the sororities and fraternities are actually effectual, through parties, campus involvement or philanthropy. A lot of university shirts tell you that a significant amount of students attend the sports games or are proud to represent the school. This is very important because there are many schools that are big in size, but have very little attendance at sports games or pride.
3. Congregation: The simple truth is that while college is going to be full of people your age looking to make friends and have fun, the campus doesn’t always cater to this desire. The perpetually autumn fields where romance, philosophy and spontaneous two-hand touch football games are born does not always exist. Tradition, architecture and off-campus living are the things that determine how vivaciously social the student body will be. Make sure to look for typical congregation areas and try to spot how many people are hanging out or just passing through.
4. Construction: It is very common for campuses to be undergoing construction. Unless you’re on a Harvard type campus where the buildings are magically historic, the university should be making some sort of improvements. Pay attention to where these developments are and make sure to ask how long they’ll take to finish. A new student area, dormitory or a glorious field could be just final perk you’re looking for.
5. Campus Newspaper: While your tour guide will be sure to mention only the positive things, there are still ways to find out some dirt on your potential university. The simplest way: pick up a campus newspaper. Journalism students love to be critical. They are the voice of the student body—living testimony to the intelligence and passion of our country’s students—yet they are also 20-year-olds upset and overwhelmed by student loans, the lack of vegan meal options, the latest fraternity scandal, etc. By reading through the campus paper you will find out what on- and off-campus situations students are happy or unhappy with.College Visit Getting into College What to Expect