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The College Tour: Etiquette

Campus visits are an important part of the college search process. After all, there’s only so much you can conclude from a brochure. If you have the opportunity to walk around a campus, you’ll experience the energy and vibe that permeates a school. You’ll get to see for yourself if students appear happy and excited. And you’ll catch a glimpse of a handful of school-sponsored events. Moreover, you can sample the dining hall food, possibly hear a classroom lecture and see just how spacious (or dungeon-like) dorm rooms can be! 

Of course, at the crux of these visits is the college tour. To that end, we thought we’d offer a few tips regarding how to properly conduct yourself:

Confirm your appointment. If you’ve pre-registered for a tour, call up the admissions office and be sure you’ve secured a spot. Moreover, while you have the school on the phone, ask for directions to the office. Some campuses are sprawling and/or difficult to navigate, especially if you’ve never been there before.

Be prompt. Though this might sound a tad obvious, make sure you leave early enough to arrive on time for the tour or information session. It can be rude and disruptive if you show up late. And tours don’t typically wait for stragglers.  Further, when calculating your travel time, be sure to factor in both traffic and the possibility of getting a little lost once you hit the campus.

Dress appropriately. There’s no need to don a three piece suit or your fanciest dress (especially if you’re not sitting for an interview). On the other hand, you should probably avoid wearing a ratty t-shirt and gym shorts. Simply make sure you wear neat, comfortable clothes as you’ll likely be trekking all over campus. And be sure to check the weather prior to leaving. Discomfort can be distracting.

Be respectful. Don’t provide a running commentary alongside your tour guide or continually hold loud side conversations with your parents or other students. Additionally, turn off your cell phone. Unless you are expecting an extremely important call, there’s no need for it. You can return your text messages once the tour ends.

Come prepared with questions. After all, you’re ostensibly visiting a school because you’re interested in possibly attending. This is your opportunity to glean as much as possible. What you learn today will help you make an informed decision tomorrow!

Conversely, don't dominate the conversation. Other prospective students will likely come armed with their own questions and concerns. Don’t monopolize the tour guide’s time. If you still have lingering questions, pull an admissions rep aside once the tour has concluded.  
Be mindful of current students. Though tours are a routine part of campus life and the admissions machine, you’re still guests in their living space. Hence, be quiet and courteous if you’re touring a dorm. Sure, you want to get a feel for the place but there’s no need to shout or gawk. Don’t wander into random rooms or rifle through a student’s belongings.

If you need to leave early, depart quietly. Sometimes prospective students have to leave to meet with a coach, sit for an interview or even visit another nearby school. Or they might simply realize that this particular college isn’t for them. It’s okay if you need to split, just avoid making a scene. You don’t want to distract the tour guide or other visitors. And if you know beforehand that you’ll be leaving early, kindly inform your guide. After all, you certainly don’t want to make him/her feel self-conscious and wonder if it was something he/she said.

Thank your guide. These students are likely volunteering their time (or getting paid very little). Indeed, many undergrads sign up to lead tours out of a genuine love for their school. And they work hard to ensure that you learn a lot and have a positive experience. Make sure they know their efforts are appreciated.

Many college-bound students find campus tours to be an invaluable reference once it becomes time to decide where they’ll both apply and ultimately enroll. Make sure your tour experience is the best it can be by following the suggestions outlined above!


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Don Munce