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Check the website or contact the admissions office of the schools you’re hoping to visit to confirm campus tour availability and familiarize yourself with visitor protocols. If you’re unable to visit a particular campus, learn more about How to Choose a College Without Visiting It.

When deciding what colleges to add to your list, touring a campus can be a valuable tool. A campus tour is the best way to familiarize yourself with the school grounds and see what life at that school is really like. Most campus tours are led by a student guide who’s generally very open to questions. Here are a few things you may not have considered asking, which can give you a deeper understanding of the school so you can figure out if it’s a good fit. 

1. How Much Time Is Spent on Homework and Studying?

Tour guides are normally trained to cover what classes are like, but asking this question will give you a fuller picture of the school’s academic demands. Emma Brilleslyper, a campus tour guide at Texas Christian University in Texas, says that while understanding how classes are taught is of course relevant, “the amount of work that you put into a class outside of a physical hour in a class is pretty important.” You’ll likely spend more time studying and writing papers than sitting in class. She adds that this question also “gives you an idea of how academically motivated students are.” 

2. What Does the School Do to Make Students Feel More Safe?

While a college campus seems idyllic, it’s still important to know how seriously the school takes security. Christina Natale, a campus tour guide at SUNY Albany in New York, advises asking about safety protocols. Most schools have campus security, cameras and emergency phones. Get into the specifics at each school you visit by asking questions like: “Do you feel safe while you’re at school?” and “What does your school do to make this possible?” 

3. What Kind of Things Do You Do on Campus With Your Friends?

Brilleslyper says she rarely gets personal questions from prospective students, but thinks asking questions like these are a good idea. She explains that getting information about the social elements of student life is what’s going to tell you if the school is a fit. Plus, tour guides often have a script they’re supposed to follow. Brilleslyper says asking them a personal question will get them off script, which gives you more accurate insight into how they feel about their school. 

4. Do You Have a Favorite Professor?

Sara Hendricks, a tour guide at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, also recommends getting personal. Instead of asking generalities about academics, she says, “It’s always a great idea to ask a tour guide if they have a favorite professor.” The guide may be able to share a personal anecdote that reveals more about the school’s professors than what’s in their online bios so you can get a better idea of whether they take meaningful interest in their students. Their answer can also highlight a worthwhile class you may not have considered. 

5. What’s the Sports Culture Like?

Miranda Rennie, a tour guide from Towson University in Maryland, often gets asked, “How good is the football team?” She says a better question to ask might be what the sports fan culture is like. You can look up the stats on the school sporting teams. Take advantage of having an actual student at your disposal by getting information you can’t find online — general campus sentiment toward athletes, student attendance at school-sponsored rallies and personal takes on tailgating and the social scene around sports. 

6. What Was Your Freshman Grocery List Like?

Brilleslyper says that one of the weirdest questions she was ever asked was, “What was your grocery list like?” It struck her as strange in the moment, but now she realizes it’s actually quite telling about freshman life. Asking this question can give you insights into the dining hall, how the campus cuisine helps with adjusting to life away from home and what student needs have to be fulfilled off campus. 

7. What Would You Look for That Didn’t Seem That Important in High School?  

Brilleslyper says this question is crucial because “you don’t really know what it is that you’re going to find important in the next couple of years.” Hearing a current student’s thoughts on what you should be considering can really open your eyes to new things to observe — on this campus tour and the rest of your tours. 

Don’t be afraid to ask campus tour questions — unexpected or not — that give you the information you need to make the best college list possible. Gather all of the facts and expert opinions you can before you make the big decision of where to apply. 

Interviews for this article were conducted in 2018.

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