questionsdoes anyone have any tips for touring a college?

vote-for29vote-against
vote-for6vote-against

Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask as many questions as you can think of while you are there. Often campus tours are marred by potential students and their parents refraining from asking questions. Do not leave the campus having any question you possibly could ask go unanswered!

If possible try to arrange for your child to meet with someone in the department that they would be most interested in focusing on. Making early connections with pertinent people can sometimes help get your foot in the door admissions-wise. Also doing so can get a relevant correspondence started if questions arise after the visit.

vote-for8vote-against

Well, I recently visited and applied to a few colleges. These are the things I think would be most helpful for your son and for you to consider as well. First of all, give yourself a full day to visit each college. Rushing through the tour will not give you the correct impression of the college. Also very important is to follow your instinct. I remember stepping onto the campus at Binghamton University and almost immediately loving it. If you get a good "vibe" right away, keep going. It's bound to get better. That is not to say that you should leave right away if you don't get a good vibe...

After the "basics," always ask about the reputation of your son's current chosen major or what he wants to study. Look for a tour guide/student who is actually majoring in said field. He or she will be the best "teacher" for you when asking questions. Next, find out about the social life. Your son may want to ask about parties when you aren't right there next to him. That's okay.

vote-for6vote-against

(continued...)

He is going to be on his own very soon. Give him a little freedom. In regards to the same thing, and if you have the time, let him walk around on campus to simply explore. You can go ask a tour guide some questions about parent connections and the ever-dreaded tuition costs and financial aid.

Those are the main things. Good luck to you and your son! :)

vote-for7vote-against

Make sure you talk to people who aren't the tour guide- the guide's job is to make the school sound appealing which often leads to canned answers and glossing over the less desirable things.

Students and professors at the school generally don't mind a quick question and can give you a more complete picture.

vote-for4vote-against

things you as the parent may want to know:

What is the housing requirement? made to live on grounds or off
Reason to know - housing is expensive and can usually be had cheaper the farther you are away from the campus. Also, if they make freshmen stay on grounds and they have a car, what about parking. Some schools do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus. If so, that means you, or their party buddy, may be doing the driving back and forth for laundry or visits.

Meal plans: Are they flexible, and when are the cafeterias open?
Reason: Most college students are very poor at setting schedules and will miss the main meals in the cafeterias lunchrooms. Will the flexible spending account allow for purchases outside the cafeteria and if so - do they charge an outrageous price for snacks. (you may be better getting a pizza plan from the nearest pizza hut).

Books: are they ebooks, downloadable, or college bookstore books only. Books are expensive and the "trade in" is a rip off.

vote-for4vote-against

Medical insurance taken at the university? many big colleges have a clinic on campus. Some charge a small fee and others are a cash cow for some colleges/universities. Better to know ahead of time than later on. Would hate to get an envelope from university medical with a large bill.

loans/grants/tuition assistance/aid/teachers assitant positions/on campus employment. I don't want to know your financial situation, but the more a student pays for their own education, the more they tend to value it. Also, spending money comes in handy, and having a cheaper cost of attending school is better in the long run.

Not a professional student or a college employee. Just a person who paid their own way through undergrad and grad schools and had to find out some of these many things for myself. My student loans were paid off within two years of graduating, and I had money to party when needed. I lived on and off campus at more than one university. Things are different at each school.

vote-for5vote-against

@panthiest: Exactly what I was thinking.

I am currently a college student and would really enjoy it if a prospective student asked me about college life and activities at my university. The tour guides are great, but they are paid to recruit students!

Don't be afraid to talk to some of the college students on campus - we aren't as weird as we seem!

Of course look for academics, but if your son loves athletics ask about the recreational facilities. If he likes relaxing, ask about the school student centers and non-physical activities.

What campuses are you touring, if you don't mind me asking?

vote-for2vote-against

@sizzlestick: You all have had fantastic answers so far. You have brought to my attention some questions that I had not considered. My son is looking at LeTourneau in Texas and Cedarville in Ohio. He is an engineer at heart and we plan on looking at their programs. He is competing for a scholarship on one of the weekends.

vote-for3vote-against

@ecriscit: the teacher:student ratio at the colleges we are looking at is 1:20. But didn't think about assistants, aides, etc.

vote-for2vote-against

When I went to college, I had 2 criteria;
1) The ratio of coeds to male students
2) The number of bars within walking distance from the dorms

No wonder I didn't graduate. Still, it was the best 5 years of my life.

DOH!

vote-for2vote-against

@mphdavid: On a more serious note, if Ohio is an option you might want to check out Case Western Reserve University - they have an excellent Engineering program. It's very expensive, so a scholarship would definitely help!

vote-for3vote-against

@rdjuras: Hey! I'm an alum. Graduated in 2008. B.S. in Cell and Molecular Bio. Other than the weather I loved the place. Great professors all around.

vote-for2vote-against

Everything above is great (especially the stuff from daughter#1, who may kill me in the AM for mentioning our relationship).

Presuming that you won't just be writing a check from petty cash to pay for his education, make sure you are open & frank about your financial situation with financial aid counselors at the schools.

In particular, if you are no longer married to your son's other parent AND have at least a cordial relationship, carefully look into the rules for which parent he has to use for filing his FAFSA (they have nothing to do with IRS rules). Do this at least a year BEFORE he will file his FAFSA. You may end up saving literally tens of thousands of dollars. (Had my daughter gone to Boston College instead of SUNY Binghanton, using my higher income instead of her mother's lower income would have saved us over $7500 per year, in part because she remarried & I didn't, but also because child support counts for the FAFSA. (If this applies, ask & I'll post links to more info.)

vote-for2vote-against

@baqui63: thanks. my wife and i are still married and this is child #1 going to college. we are single income but it's still a lot of money to pay. my son knows that he may be working and have a small loan depending on the amount of scholarships.

vote-for4vote-against

First of all not all tour guides for schools are paid. I was one for 2 1/2 years and they gave use a lot of candy and we went bowling and had fun hanging out but we were definitely not paid. A lot of schools can't afford paid guides and even if they could paying a guide degrades the honest expressions of the students. We were given a lot of latitude in what we said about the school. That being said yes tour guides will generally be fairly upbeat about the school they are taking you on a tour of. As others have said ask tons of questions. Preferably it is the student asking the questions. Parents even if you ask good questions it sometimes is embarrassing for your kids to have you asking those. Basically remember that no one likes feeling like you are pointing a question machine gun at their head. Remember the admissions counselors can answer many of your more semantic questions. I always opened up more about experiental stuff. That's what most people fall in love with.

vote-for4vote-against

I was an RA at my university and gave tours all the time. Some notes--

-I'm not going to give a real story on how things work on campus in front of a group of people. I was there for lunch, a shirt, and pay. After the tour try to take me aside to ask questions and get real answers, such as how noisy things get, how much partying goes on, and how safe campus is.

-Ask a random student or two about how the campus looked a week ago. Like interview candidates, campuses put a lot of effort into looking good for a short while as people are looking, and let themselves go during the rest of the year. Other than planting flowers and the like, ask about the food being served or general cleanliness of the campus.

-Go with your gut. If something seems off it probably is. Try to hunt down what's making you uneasy.

-Let your kid ask tons of questions, as s/he'll be the one living there, not you.

vote-for3vote-against

@mphdavid:

Cool; good to hear some people can make it work. :)

Again, don't know if it applies, but there are also fairly simple steps you can take if you have a family owned small business, so that the business assets do not count on the FAFSA.

Also, funds (savings) in your son's name count 50% against aid, while in your name they count less than 7% against aid (I recall a max of 6.54%), so he may want to transfer his savings to an account in your name, or better yet to some other trusted relative... this may have other repercussions depending on how much he has saved, so you may want to discuss with a CPA...)

Daughter#1 is paying 50% of her college costs, with Stafford loans (~$5k/year) and work, while her mother & I are each paying 25%. College students have plenty of free time, especially as freshmen, so a job of 15-25 hours per week helps make ends meet and helps keep them out of trouble.

vote-for3vote-against

I didn't ask this question, but I have two sons graduating in the next 18 months, so this is really helpful info for me as well.
Thanks everyone!!

vote-for2vote-against

@cstlfx: Nice to meet you. Go Bearcats! :)

I have to agree. So far my professors have been great and I've heard good things about the ones I'll have this coming semester. There was just the one that taught my Calc II class that I couldn't stand. haha.

vote-for3vote-against

I like the idea that my son should be asking the questions. But as I noted he is an engineer, sort of anti-social as many engineers are. Heard the Dilbert joke: Mom brings her baby to the doctor and asks if her son is going to be OK and the doctor replies the her son will never be normal, "he's an engineer."

vote-for1vote-against

The best "tour" I know of is when the prospective student is allowed to shadow a freshman student for a whole day, sitting through all the actual lectures, seeing what it takes to get across campus from one class to the next, fighting with the lines for lunch, etc.