College Visit Tip: Go Off Course and Script

The official college tour introduces prospective students and their families to many wonderful things about the institution. In addition to being shown many important places on campus, the official tour will share facts about the institution, personal stories from the tour guide, and tips for applying for admission and financial aid. The official tour should not be missed. However, the tour is a marketing tool and will typically be highly scripted. Beautiful places on campuses will be highlighted, while less attractive locations may be missed. Therefore, it is important to go a little off course and off script when visiting colleges.

I used to organize campus tours on my college campuses. I mapped out the tour routes and trained the tour guides on their scripts. We made sure to skip the areas of campus that were not as nice. When a professor was included in the tour, we made sure to use someone who was well liked on campus. We wanted to make the college look as attractive as possible so prospective students would leave campus wanting to attend the institution in the future. We were showing the best of what we had to offer.

All campus tours will leave things out. Sometimes it is because there is just not enough time and other times it is because certain features of the college are not as appealing. As someone who will be spending a lot of time and money to attend the college, it is important to learn as much about the college as you can – the good and the bad. Go off course and off script to get the full experience of the college.

  • Ask questions. It is easy to go on the tour and listen to all of the facts and stories the tour guide shares. However, if there is anything missing, ask your tour guide questions. You can ask them about facts about the institution or their own opinions about the college. Make the tour guide go off script a bit so you can learn more about the college.
  • Seek out others. The tour guide has been trained on what to say on the campus tour. The tour guide might have also been trained on how to answer certain questions. In addition, other individuals you meet during the formal tour may have been hand selected by the admissions office. Seek out others to ask your questions about the college. Their answers may be a little less scripted and real. You can meet other current students while walking on campus, in the dining hall, or in the residence halls. The admission office can set you up with a professor, or you can visit the department office of the major you are considering and they may be able to introduce you to one of the professors.
  • What buildings were left out of the tour? Unfortunately the campus tour cannot visit every building on campus, especially if it is a large college campus. Is there a reason a certain building was left out? Sometimes it doesn’t fit in the schedule and other times there could be a different reason. If something is missing from the tour that will be important to your time at the college, ask to visit during the tour or go on your own. Some common areas to consider include:
    • Model dorm room. When visiting the residence halls, you will probably see a model room. The room will be nicely decorated with sample products the college may have received from Bed, Bath and Beyond. However, students do not live in the room. The model room will look attractive, but it probably won’t look like that if you were living in the room with a roommate. Ask to see a real room when on your tour or visit the housing office and see if they can connect you with a student so you can see a room that students actually live in.
    • Library. Many colleges have multiple libraries, but you’ll probably only see one on the tour. The library shown on the tour will probably be the most pristine and extensive library on campus, but will it be the library for a student like you? If not, visit the other libraries on campus to experience the library atmosphere for yourself.
    • Classrooms and professors. The classrooms and professors introduced during a campus tour are usually hand selected for the tour. The classroom may be attractive, technologically advanced, and comfortable for students. The professor will probably be a great advocate for the college. Not all classrooms will look like the sample you see on the tour and not all professors will be so friendly. Seek out other classrooms and professors during your visit to see the wide range of classrooms and personalities you will meet as a student on campus.
  • Go off campus. Most campus tours do not take students off campus. However, students will go off-campus and it will be part of your college experience. Tour the areas off campus to learn how welcoming the community is to college students. In addition, learn about crime statistics and visit the local hangouts of students.

The official college tour can be like a sales pitch. The tour will help you get to know the college and should not be missed. However, the official tour may only introduce you to the things that institution is very proud of and may leave off things that are not so great. Go off course and off script to learn even more about the college.

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