As students and parents go on college tours, they should pay attention to what the tour guide is saying. But that shouldn’t be all that they pay attention to. In order to get a more complete picture of a university, parents and students should wander off after the college tour. They should talk to students. They should smile at students to see if they smile back. In our experience, smiling students equates with a lower transfer rate. Wouldn’t you want to go to a school that students love going to? Much of what your tour guide tells you about a school is informative. But much of it is also the school’s PR. The tour guide is instructed to say much of what they’re telling you. Wouldn’t you like to complement that with some off the record information?
Wander around the campus dining halls if you can. Check out the food. Ask students if they like going to their school. If you’re able to, sneak into a dorm room and see if someone will show you their room. Ask them questions about their experiences. Do you they love it? If so, what do they love about the school? Go to a basketball or football or hockey or soccer game if there’s one going on. Check out the school’s spirit. Do students attend games? If school spirit is important to you, wouldn’t it be nice to see this all firsthand?
And for students who are too embarrassed to walk around with their parents, walk around on your own. Or let your parents walk around on their own. Let them ask questions. Let them wander into dining halls on their own if you don’t want to accompany them. They’ll get the info for you, info that you can even use in your Why College essay if you do indeed want to apply after your campus visit. You’re not going to have many opportunities to visit each school (usually only one) — so make the most of it and get all of the information that you can glean.