What Student Tours and Admissions Meetings Won’t Tell You About a College
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If you decide to visit a college campus, you may be wondering what it’s like to be a student there — how do students live on their own, what is a typical day like for them, and what do they do all day? Attending an admissions session or taking a campus tour may give you some answers, but the time will probably mostly be spent discussing the prestige of the university, their application process, and the most iconic spots on campus. You may not get some of the in-depth and personal information that you’re looking for.
However, that in-depth and personal information can be useful in deciding whether a college campus is right for you and can even be an important factor when you’re deciding whether to accept an offer of admission. In this post, we outline seven questions that most likely won’t be addressed in a student tour or admissions meeting that are worth researching. We’ll also provide some tips on how to get the answers you’re looking for.
1. What is the surrounding town like?
Each college campus is located in a different environment — in a relatively isolated rural area, a quaint suburb, or the middle of a big city. Regardless, as a student, you will likely step outside of campus and visit the surrounding area frequently.
It is worth noting what the schools’ surroundings are like — whether they’re safe, whether you’ll have access to public transportation, and whether it’s a good place to live. Unfortunately, an admissions information session or campus tour may only briefly mention the area outside of campus, and sometimes they won’t even give you the whole truth in regards to how safe it is. Instead, they’ll focus on things that pertain directly to the college like the class sizes, the scenery on campus, and all the safety precautions that exist on campus grounds.
2. What is the housing situation?
You may hear mention of on-campus housing at an information session, you can ask your tour guide about housing if they happen to be a student, or if you’re lucky, you may even get a peek at a typical campus dorm. However, none of the above will give you a full picture of the housing situation at that university.
For example, a university representative is unlikely to reveal information about off-campus housing options (even if they’re the better or cheaper option). Also, a tour guide probably won’t give you the insider tips about university housing like which dorms are more social, which have the best dining halls, etc.
3. What are the classes ACTUALLY like?
Are students at this university often stressed out because of classes? Do classes fill up quickly? Is finding a place to study on campus a pain? How much homework do professors assign on average? How long does midterm season last? Do students get a break in between the end of class and finals (this is called a “dead week” on some college campuses)?
These questions, along with others that pertain to the student life at the university, should be taken into consideration when you’re thinking about which university you want to spend your next four years at. An admissions meeting may gloss over the academic life at the university with a typical response — that “many students find that college courses are more rigorous and challenging than classes in high school,” for example — but they usually won’t tell you the details that you need to know.
What do students do in their free time?
By the end of a college tour and information session, you will probably have a pretty good idea of what the campus looks like and what the admissions process is. However, you may not have heard a lot about what students do that isn’t related to academics.
Admissions tours and information sessions don’t usually give more than a basic overview of what most students do outside of class in their spare time. They may not delve into details like which spot on campus most students hang out at, what quirky extracurricular many students support, or which spot close to campus students like to meet up at.
Understanding what most college students do in their free time on campus can help you visualize yourself at that university and assess whether you are a good fit for the college. If you can see yourself doing all the leisurely activities that most students do, there’s a good chance you’d enjoy your time at that university.
What are some hidden study spots on campus?
Campus tours don’t usually hit all the spots on the campus, but rather the most iconic, aesthetically appealing, and impressive parts. While these are great spots to know about, you may find that they are not where many students like to spend their time.
Oftentimes, a university will have an overlooked and secluded spot on campus that isn’t well known. These spots are great to go and study while you’re a student or even get some alone time if you feel like it. Unfortunately, these hidden gems don’t usually make it into a campus tour because there are too many bigger things to see on campus in a short amount of time.
Where can I go near campus to eat?
Even if a college campus has the best dorm food ever (most do not), you will inevitably get sick of it from time to time while you’re a student. When that happens, you’ll need a restaurant or cafe near campus to eat at. While student tour guides may know about the best off-campus eateries, it likely won’t come up as part of their tour.
Pro tip: Late night study sessions in college are more common than you might think. If you’re going to search for the best places to eat off campus, try to discover ones that are open late.
Where do I go when I need to get away from it all?
College can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when you’re just entering as a freshman. It is perfectly normal to sometimes need a break from the stress and responsibility associated with attending university. So where do you go to get a break from campus life?
The university representatives who run information sessions may not know the answer to this question since they likely have never been students at that university themselves. Current student tour guides may know, but they are unlikely to include that information on their campus tour.
Do Your Research: How to Find Out This Information
Even if a student tour or information session isn’t telling you everything you want to know about campus life and what it’s like to attend the university in question, here are some ways that you can fill in those information gaps on your own:
- Ask a Student: Current students have the most up-to-date information about what it’s like to be a student at that university. If you happen to have a friend or peer who attends the university in question, it’s worth reaching out to them with any questions you may have. If you don’t know somebody at the university, the campus tour guides are generally university students. See if you can pull them aside after the tour and ask them questions.
- Explore the surrounding area: If you have time after your student tour and admissions meeting, take some time to roam around campus and the surrounding area on your own. You’re likely to find things like hidden study spots, the best off-campus eateries, places to spend your free time, and other things you were looking for just by walking around and observing where you see the most college students.
- A basic Google search: You won’t find such detailed information about student life at most official university websites, but there are chat websites and forums like College Confidential that may have the answers you’re looking for. If the answer isn’t already there, you can always post your questions and let current college students answer them. Be wary of this research method, however. Oftentimes, you will have no way of knowing whether the information you are getting is accurate or up-to-date.
- Meme pages: This is a more recent fad that has made its way into college culture. A meme is a humorous image, video, or piece of text that is modified and shared with internet users. Students at some of the top colleges like UC Berkeley, Stanford, UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth, UCLA, and Harvard have recently started creating meme pages on Facebook where students will post memes that talk about student life and the university from an insider’s perspective. If you want to get a laugh, get an inside look at some campus lingo, and get a feel for the campus culture, join that university’s meme page.
Even though a campus tour or admissions meeting may not give you all the insider information you’re looking for, it’s still worth doing a campus visit and attending those infosessions. Despite their shortcomings, these can still tell you the information you need to know about admissions, and they can give you a good idea of what the campus culture is like.
For more information about campus visits and what you can (or can’t) get out of them, check out these blog posts:
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