Questioning the questions–on college tours
When I went on college tours, I asked a lot of questions—just not always the right ones. We spend so much time discussing majors and minors, perks and places that it’s easy to miss some crucial details of a college visit. Here are some aspects of college life that I hardly thought about but are really worth considering:
- Laundry facilities
Contrary to popular belief, college students actually do laundry (sometimes). And when they do, it’s helpful if the facilities are easily accessible, clean, in good working order, and do not require 17 quarters to do a single load of laundry.
- On-campus academic support
I only thought to ask about the professors, but they’re not the only ones doing the teaching on college campuses these days. Upperclassmen are frequently employed as tutors in their areas of strength and can be a real life-saver the night before an exam or while you’re struggling with a paper. I didn’t truly understand the usefulness of academic support services on campus until I became a writing advisor myself—these students are usually paid to sit around and wait for students to come to them with questions. Ask away.
- Nearness of essential businesses like pharmacies and grocery stores
Obviously, many schools are in cities and this is not a big issue. When I toured colleges, however, I often asked about stuff to do around town, proximity to potential internships, and things like that. But it’s easy to forget about basic necessities and it makes a big difference if getting a prescription filled is going to be easy as pie or a regular hassle.
- Availability of late-night nourishment
I tried the turkey sandwich in just about every cafeteria and mess hall that I visited (and yes, the college I chose did make an excellent turkey sandwich). I asked how students liked the food and tour guides are usually prepared to answer questions about vegetarian/vegan options, kosher choices, and accommodations for various food allergies. But when I toured colleges, I did not anticipate the kind of schedule that a college student keeps—naps taken at 6 p.m. before a late-night study group means that meal times are nebulous at best. Knowing if you can snag a grilled cheese at 10 o’clock is key—because otherwise you’re going to want to buy some Easy Mac at that grocery store we discussed.
- After-hours study space
Again, as a high school junior and senior, I did not accurately envision myself as a college student. I set up the desk in my first dorm room with such care and attention to detail, but I would guess now that I did the majority of my schoolwork elsewhere. Sometimes I had so many books that I needed a bigger space, other times I was working with classmates or didn’t want to disturb my roommates. For the first half of my college career, my school’s library was not open 24 hours a day and this made a big difference in where I studied. I never thought to ask about this on a tour, but once I was settled into my first semester, I was seeking out new places to study: the common room, dorm computer labs, an empty classroom. College students’ lives are 24/7 and that means finding study spaces to fit such a non-schedule.
So what questions did everybody else ask on college tours? What do you wish you’d asked?