A campus tour is an excellent investment on the way to making your post-secondary plans. Tours allow students and parents to get a sense of a school’s setting and culture while often providing a chance to ask specific admissions, faculty, and financial aid questions. Read on to learn more about how to plan a tour, what to do while you’re on tour, and our tips for preparing for applications after you’ve taken a tour.
Planning the trip
- Book an official tour. This is usually done on the school’s admissions website. Doing this will allow you to visit the campus with a student tour guide and have access to closed spaces such as gyms and libraries. You may also be asked if you would like to attend a Q and A with admissions and financial aid representatives. Say yes.
- Check out our list of post-secondary spring break events (including tours) here.
- Book tours well in advance – they fill up in busy times
- If there are faculty-specific tours (Fine Arts, Engineering), consider signing up for these as well.
- Do the colleges tour at the University of Toronto.
- Plan ahead for what questions you want to find answers to at each school. Make a list. Then see if any of your questions are already answered on the website, and cross those out. Think of what you really need a student or an admissions officer to answer. Ask these questions at each institution to help you compare them.
Attending the tour
- Arrive at the campus with plenty of time – it may be hard to find parking and the correct building, or you may need to wait to sign in.
- If the school asks you to sign in, sign in. Some universities track student visits as a measure of interest. Many schools will expect interested students who live within 6– 8 hours of the campus to come visit.
- Come prepared for the weather – if it is pouring rain, the tour will still go ahead, so bring an umbrella and raincoat.
- Take lots of photos – not just touristy things, but also dining halls, the library, first-year rooms, and whatever else is interesting
- On the tour – the tour will most likely be led by a student guide. This is a great opportunity to listen to information about residence, meal plans, class sizes, school traditions, clubs, etc. This is an especially good opportunity to see if the info on the admissions website is really true.
- The website boasts a 20:1 student-faculty ratio. Is this true in first year, or are first-year classes huge?
- How is the food, really? Is there enough? Is it easy to get at all hours?
- What residence is your tour guide in? Which one were they in first year? Would they recommend it?
- Do the students really love their mandatory first-year science/foreign language class?
- Do lots of kids go out to watch on-campus sports?
- Is there time to go out into the community? Is it fun to do that?
- How safe is the campus?
- Questions for tour guide:
- What vibe words would you use to describe the school/your experience?
- What are the hidden opportunities I can’t read on the internet?
- How did X college overdeliver for you and/or underdeliver for you?
- What is the biggest compliment/criticism you would give of the school?
- At the information session – these will likely be led by admissions/financial aid staff. They will present general information about the admissions and financial aid process. There is lots of great information to be gained, and a chance to ask general questions at the end.
- Things to avoid –
- Do not ask very specific questions about your own child in front of other parents and teens. Instead, make appointments with financial aid, admissions, counselling services, medical services, or coaches to attend during your visit.
- Ask the right question of the right person – the student leading your tour may not know about the financial aid policy, and the admissions director may not be in touch with Greek life on campus.
- Let the student do most of the talking – they should be prepared with questions and should leave with their questions answered.
After the tour
- Write down your impressions – both good and bad – right away. Especially focus on the things that differentiate the school from others – from the big to the small.
- A simple positive, negative, neutral chart is a great way to sort out your thoughts.
- Also, note the effectiveness of the tour guide and the weather. These are subtle, but powerful, impressions.
- When you sit for a meal after the tour the student should just talk and the parent can scribe all their thoughts down for them. Think about your own vibe words and the details that really stuck with you (good or bad) about the school.
- If you met individually with any admissions/financial aid officers, counsellors, or coaches, have the student write a thank you note. This personal thanks will go a long way.
Prepare for the application
- Especially in the US, supplement questions often ask about the particular qualities that attract you to the school, what makes you most excited about attending, etc. You can look at the previous year’s questions online and get a sense of what you may be asked to write about. Try to gain that information on the tour.
Missed part one? Check it out here.