Get The Most Out Of Your College Tours

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Pictures will be a visual reminder for later when you are making a final decision on the school. Picture here is the of the back of the Doheny Memorial Library building at the University of Southern California.

Alexa Geidel, Columnist

It’s never too early to start searching. Finding a college is hard enough, but what do you do when you have the opportunity to visit? Plan a trip, is what! Whether it be a day or a week, the adventure will be jam packed with things to do, day and night. Like finding a pearl in an oyster, the search will be arduous but worth the journey. Here are 13 tips to getting the most out of your college touring experience.

1. Find the school the night before. Take a drive through and map out where parking is and where the tour meets. You’ll also get a preview of everything, so make notes of what you want to see more up close in the daylight.

2. Come prepared with questions. Have a concrete list of overarching questions you’ll ask at every college that outline all the things on your wish list: housing choices, extracurriculars, types of student organizations, professor availability, etc. Also make a school-specific list for each school you visit with more pointed questions about the programs or resources in the city around the school.

3. Dress for the occasion. If you are just going on a tour because you have limited time, it’s okay to rock a pair of shorts. But if you know you have a one-on-one with an advisor or head of a department, consider wearing something sharper. Know your audience.

4. Stay away from your phone. Other than taking pictures, be present! Show interest in the activities and the tour by staying away from distractions. Even friends can be a distraction if you go together, so make a promise to stay focused and professional.

5. Sit in the front for the information session. Take copious notes and ask questions. You can never have too many questions. Make sure everyone can see you are focused and serious about this. If you travel across the country for this, or even if you only drove 30 minutes, be present, you have one shot to get all your questions answered.

6. Sign up for a breakout sessions. Most schools offer breakout sessions after the information session and walking tour, where you break off into smaller groups with representatives from your prospective major or interests. These are a great way to get a more narrowed-in look at the program you are considering.

7. Be polite to everyone and address every issue with poise because you never know who you’re talking to or who they know. If your name doesn’t show up on the tour list, don’t freak, act with grace and be kind to everyone. Not everything will go as planned, so keep your cool.

8. Take pictures, lots of pictures! Whip out your smart phone, but only for the purpose of taking pictures. Don’t forget to take pictures of yourself in front your favorite buildings or statues or shrubs – you’ll want these pictures later.

9. Don’t dilly dally at the back of the group. Keep up and walk with the tour guide and actively ask questions. If one of your tour guides happens to be from your area of interest, they are a wonderful and quick resource. Even if they don’t know all the answers, they will definitely have friends that have gone through something similar and can share their story.

10. Hunt down the higher ups. Don’t be afraid to pop into the office of someone you know is important to your area of interest or might have further resources for you to take home. Check their office hours or contact their secretary to make an appointment. If you only sit down briefly for fifteen minutes on short notice, don’t worry about what you look like, brainstorm questions and get focused.

11. Try the food. Ask around for the best place to eat on campus or discover one on your own. Get a taste for how the system works at the school: money systems, options, special-diet accommodations, etc.

12. Find a bench to sit down on and discuss your reactions afterwards. Get with your parents or friends, or whomever you went on the tour with, and jot down your initial reactions. It is important to remember exactly how you felt initially about the school and the programs. You might even be able to rule out the school before the end of the day, or decide to put it farther up your list.

13. Don’t get your heart set on anything. No matter if the school is completely in your reach or not, keep an open mind. If you let yourself fall in love with every school, you will get your heart broken, guaranteed.

This is an exciting time, no doubt about it, so enjoy every minute of it. Do your research, put yourself out there, and work your hardest. You know what you have to do, make it happen, the world is your oyster.