As useful as a college’s website can be, it’s not going to give you the full picture of what it would actually be like to attend that school.
Touring colleges can be a great way to get the inside scoop and access to hard-to-find information. Instead of sifting through endless pages online, you can get answers from the people who know the school best.
You might feel lost when it comes to figuring out which questions to ask on a college tour, but we’ve broken them down into some basic categories to help make it less overwhelming for you and your parents.
Being in college involves a lot more than just attending large lectures and pulling all-nighters at your computer. Your campus will have its own culture and social life that you’ll want to explore.
Usually, in the first few weeks of the year, there will be events where clubs, Greek communities, and student councils set up tables and try to recruit members.
Getting involved in on-campus activities, clubs, and extracurriculars can be a great way to build a network, explore your interests, and importantly, make friends. So it can be helpful to get an idea of the types of activities a school offers and how you can get involved while you’re on your college tour.
Ask if your guide knows when these events are planned and what types of organizations will be present.
Another important facet of campus life is, of course, the food. Your guide will probably show you where the various food courts and dining halls are, but it doesn’t hurt to ask about what is available and what their recommendations are. And if you have specific dietary restrictions, you may want to ask what types of accommodations dining halls can make.
Some more questions you might want to ask about campus life include:
• When are most people on campus?
• What time do places (e.g., library, coffee shops, restaurants, gym, etc.) close?
• Is it easy to find parking near campus?
• Are students generally inclusive of all types of people?
• Do most freshmen live on campus? Is there a freshman dorm?
College is going to be your home for about four years, your experience will be impacted by the time you spend both in and out of the classrooms on campus.
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A large portion of your time in college will, naturally, be spent in your classes. Your tour will probably cover certain types of buildings, like the engineering building, the liberal arts buildings, etc. But if your guide doesn’t mention where classes for your major will be taking place, make sure to ask so that you are familiar with the campus layout.
If you haven’t researched how big your classes will be, this could also be a good time to ask those questions. See if your guide has information on how common large lectures are as opposed to smaller class sizes.
You may prefer a school where smaller class sizes are the norm. This can make it easier to get to know your classmates and professors. Or, you might like the excitement of being in a large lecture hall.
Registering for college courses can be a hectic experience, especially for popular classes with limited spots available. Every college has its own system and it can impact whether or not you get the courses you want.
Ask your guide what the school’s process is for class registration and if you might have issues getting desired courses within your major.
Recommended: College Visit Checklist for Parents
Another way to get involved in your school’s social scene is through sports. Your school will likely have official sports teams as well as intramural sports.
Going to the official games with friends is a fun way to show your school pride and spend time with classmates outside of studying.
Some questions you can ask your guide about sports are:
• Where are the sports played, on-campus or off?
• Which ones are the most popular to watch?
• What’s the average cost for a sporting event ticket?
If there’s a sport that you’re particularly fond of watching, ask your guide about the school’s team.
If you’re athletic or want to become more athletic, joining an intramural sports team can be a fun way to get exercise and socialize at the same time.
While you’re on your tour, ask where the school gym is and where and when intramural sign-ups usually happen. Another question you might ask on your college tour is if a gym membership is included in tuition and what you get access to, as some intramural sports may have an extra sign-up cost.
Some of the most important questions to ask on a college tour will have to do with the available living situations. Choosing your college living situation is a huge decision.
There are usually a few options depending on how far away from home your school is. If you’re going out of state, you’ll probably have the option to live in a dorm or find somewhere to live off-campus. Some schools require out-of-state freshmen to stay on campus during their first year, so asking about this on the tour can help you understand what’s required at your school.
Since every school’s dorms will be different, here’s a list of questions worth asking while you’re on the tour:
• How many people are assigned to a room? If it’s suite-style, how many people share common living spaces such as the kitchen and bathrooms?
• How do they assign roommates and when do you learn who your roommate is?
• What is the process for changing your roommate if problems occur?
If you choose to stay in the dorms, you want to make sure your college will be supportive of making sure it’s a safe and friendly environment for students.
Off-campus living may be an option for your first year, but even if it isn’t, it can still be good to ask about it on your college tour. Ask what options are available nearby and what the average cost is for rent. It can be helpful to also gauge how many upperclassmen live on-campus vs. off-campus too.
Consider asking if the school has a system for finding roommates, like an online forum, so you can meet other students and find trustworthy people to room with.
Some schools may opt to assign roommates for freshmen, so understanding what the standard protocol at the school is can be helpful.
If you’re touring schools close to home, you may have the option of living at home. If you’re considering commuting, you could ask your guide how they think commuting affects students’ ability to enjoy campus life and their ability to stay involved in events/organizations.
Work and Career Opportunities
It’s pretty well known that college isn’t cheap. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get some help paying for tuition and books with various forms of financial support, but it doesn’t hurt to see what job opportunities will be available for you on campus.
Ask your tour guide if jobs are available to students and where you can get more information.
For long term career goals, it’s important to know if your school hosts job fairs or networking events in your field. Many colleges will support students beyond just getting a degree.
During your tour, ask what events your school provides to help students start their careers post-graduation.
💡 Quick Tip: It’s a good idea to understand the pros and cons of private student loans and federal student loans before committing to them.
Paying for college can be a stressful topic, but your tour guide may have a better understanding of what you’re feeling, having already gone through the process themselves. While you’re touring different schools, it’s important to ask what financial aid options are available that are unique to the school.
Wherever you end up going, the way to apply for financial aid is by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will let you know if you are eligible for any federal aid, which may include grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans.
To fill in any gaps in funding, you may also want to explore private student loans. These are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. To apply for a private student loan, you generally fill out a loan application either alone or with a cosigner. Rates vary depending on the lender but borrowers with solid credit typically qualify for the lowest rates.
Just keep in mind that private student loans may not offer borrower protections, such as deferment and income-driven repayment plans, that come with federal student loans.
If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.