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Whether you’re on a campus tour or have an acquaintance that attends a school you’re interested in, I encourage you to branch out and ask some questions to get a real feel for the college. Campus tours are great, but can often sugar coat details about universities, so asking current students about a few topics might allow you to get a few different opinions! Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

How was your freshman year?

Ask them what the best and worst part of their freshman year was. If they say something that catches your interest, ask them why they felt that way.

Where are the best places to eat on campus?

A lot of campus tours will lead you to the largest or all-you-can-eat dining halls, but you’ll be surprised what’s out there if you ask around! If you have some spare time while on a campus visit, go to a few food places that people mention, even if you’re not buying anything.

What are the pros and cons of the dorms?

This is a good way to find out if all of the dorms at this school are created equal. Unless every dorm building on campus is structured exactly the same, there’s likely to be some ups and downs of each unique building. Talking to a bunch of people will help you get an idea of what you can expect out of your living situation.

What’s something random you recommend everyone bring with them to college?

I remember I asked this question to someone on a prospective students day, and she said an umbrella and rain gear. Sure enough, I forgot about her response and guess who was stuck in the rain without an umbrella on their 2nd day on campus? Save yourself a future Walmart run and see what others recommend!

What is the party scene/nightlife situation really like?

Whether you are or are not into the party scene, this is a big one that might be glazed over on a campus tour. Talking to actual students will help you get an idea of whether or not parties/drinking will have an impact on how you see this school.

How do you keep yourself entertained during your free time?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: college isn’t necessarily ALL about studying and your future. You will have some free time, eventually. Don’t be afraid to ask where students hang out on campus or what sort of campus activities there are on a weekly basis.

Is there anything you with you would’ve known before coming here?

If you ask this one, you can probably either expect to get a really serious or a really silly answer. Maybe they didn’t take into account their roommate situation, needed to know more about financial aid, or maybe they wish they would’ve become more acquainted with the campus. Either way, this question will help you increase your knowledge of what freshman year could be like.

How easy it it to get around campus/town?

If you aren’t allowed a car on campus as a freshman, ask how easy it was to navigate around and get your shopping done. Is there a transit/metro system that helps students get around? If you are allowed a car, how easy/expensive is it to find parking on or around campus?

Are there a lot of clubs/extracurriculars here?

Especially if you have a hobby in mind, it doesn’t hurt to see if whether or not there is ample opportunity to join things once you arrive at this school. This includes Greek life as well, if you are interested in possibly rushing a fraternity or sorority.

How big are sports at this school?

Is this a school where football is a huge deal and you’ll be making your way to a tailgate in Fall, or are sports very limited? If you play a sport, ask a current student if they offer that here. They may be able to tell you what sort of ranking the school is, and if a particular sport is offered as a club or as teams.

What’s the most common mistake you see freshman make?

This question is to prevent you from being the typical lanyard-wearing, gullible freshman that uses technical names for buildings that all the current students have slang for. Use it well.

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the author

Allison Capley is an editor, college life writer, and a member of James Madison University’s class of 2016 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At JMU she studies Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, with a minor in Health Communication. Allison’s favorite hobby is horseback riding. In the future, she aspires to live life to the fullest and obtain a career in medical and pharmaceutical writing.

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