Relax, sit back and take a deep breath! You’ve done all the hard work. You’ve sat through all of the applications, waited around biting your nails, and now you’ve finally been accepted to a few colleges. Thank goodness because now all that’s left is the fun part, which is visiting the campuses of your prospective schools and narrowing down your final choice. The tables have turned; instead of a college choosing you, you’re the one who gets to choose the college!
Now, while you’ll probably be walking around in awe at the glory of a college campus, this is a place where you could be spending 4+ years, so use your tour time wisely! There are a few important things to consider to make sure this is truly the right place for you.
1. The dorms
Let’s be real here, dorm life is by far the thing that most students look forward to. It’s a glorious year of being smushed in a tight space with two other people you don’t know, and sharing a communal bathroom…yum. The dorms are where you meet your friends and truly establish yourself as a person on your own for the first time. That being said, the on-campus housing is one of the biggest factors that should affect your decision. During your tour, try to make a visit to the dorms, and even see if you can spend the night in one! Take it all in: the atmosphere, students demographics, room size, and general vibe. If you could happily spend a year living there, then you’re good to go.
2. The city
This might not be something that initially comes to mind, but your prospective college is more than just its campus, but the entire surrounding area. Take a day or two to explore the city. There are going to be times when you desperately want to get away from campus, so a local coffee shop or quiet beach is a good thing to be on the lookout for. The Prospect pro-tip: make sure the city has amazing food. We’re talkin’ donuts, pizza, coffee, whatever appeals to you. You’ll be the star of your social scene if you can take your friends off-campus for some amazing local cuisine.
3. Campus dining
These two words are enough to make most college students regurgitate. The quality of campus dining varies from college to college, but despite the rumors, the food isn’t all bad. Try it out for yourself, and while on a tour grab lunch or an early dinner at the most popular campus eatery. Even with one meal you’ll be able to get a good impression if you can stomach it down or if you’ll have to be bingeing on easy mac in your dorm.
4. Class size for your major
By now, you certainly have some impression of the average campus population, but more importantly, pay attention to the class size for your major classes. This information can be found through a tour guide or by paying a visit to your major’s department office. Remember that a smaller class size is always better because it means more help and one-on-one time from the professors. You’ll be thankful you asked about this later. The Prospect pro-tip: if you have time, ask if you can sit in on a few classes!
5. Social scene
During a campus tour, you can get a pretty strong sense of the student vibe by observing the people around you and even pulling a few of them aside to ask what they think of the college and its community. Hopefully you can click with the majority of students you talk with, and realize that you will be socially comfortable and mesh with the personality types you’ve seen so far. Ask some students about the social scene, whether it be about Greek life, parties, extracurriculars, or popular weekend activities. Friends can help make or break the college experience, so it’s important to get a sense of whether you feel welcomed.
6. Student diversity
Any modern millennial student cares about diversity, but what you may not realize is that a diverse campus can really enrich your learning experience. Campuses that are accepting of all ethnic backgrounds and gender identities will groom you to understand a variety of viewpoints and partake in empathic forms of discussion both in a classroom and socially.
7. The campus itself
You could potentially be spending five days a week here for four or more years, so if you don’t feel comfortable on campus, this might be a sign that you should cut this college from your final decision. Every campus is going to be vastly different, but make sure that you can find a study spot, grassy area or a nap, and anything else you might need for a long day of class! Once you like the appearance and amenities of the campus, you’ll be sure to call it home!