6 Campus Tour To-Do's for Students and Parents

A campus tour guide and her mother weigh in on mastering the experience.

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Campus tours can be one of the most exciting parts of the college search process. But while you're taking in the sights, you also want the experience to help you with the decision process once you get back home.

JULIE: Visiting schools with Lindsey was just as exciting for her dad and me as it was for her. It was fun to see her in new settings and imagine what her experience might be like there. Still, there were some things we learned from experience about how to be the best partner for a child on a campus tour.

1. Remember your role: The most important thing to remember on a campus tour is that it's your child who will be attending school—not you. (That's especially true if you're visiting your alma mater.) Support your child by watching and asking about his or her reactions before sharing your own.

2. Help your student form his or her questions: This is probably best done before the tour. While some questions can't be anticipated, others can—and your student may be too excited or overwhelmed to remember things he or she wanted to ask. Dividing questions into topic areas like housing, academics, and extracurricular activities will help you cover the bases.

[Ask these questions on your college tour.]

3. Have your own list of questions: Parents often have their own sets of priorities, and they tend to involve handing off the reins of responsibility from themselves to their child. While your child may be wondering about dorm food and social events, you may have questions about campus safety or academic resources. Feel free to get answers to those as well.

LINDSEY: As a campus tour guide, I see dozens of families come through campus each week. Everyone goes on the same tour, but there are definitely visitors who make the most of their hour with a student ambassador. Here are some of the ways I've seen visitors get more from their time on campus:

1. Ask the right questions: In my experience, I've found that things such as meal plans and advising are relatively similar at most universities, and most likely won't make or break your college decision. It's more beneficial to ask about what life looks like for a student. Think residence halls, weekend activities, and intramurals.

[Use these six factors to help narrow your college search.]

2. Look around: Take note of the kinds of students you see on campus. Can you picture yourself going to class, hanging out in dorm rooms, and eating lunch with these people? Also, feel free to ask your tour guide questions about his or her social life and friends in order to get a better feel for what life would be like at that university.

3. Take advantage of extra opportunities: My university offers residence hall tours, Greek tours, and scholarship hall tours in addition to the day's regular programming. College visits can be exhausting, but don't skip the extras. They can be great opportunities to see another aspect of campus and to get a better idea of what the school is all about.

[Use these seven tips to get the most out of college tours.]