Tips for Parents
7 Questions to Ask on a Campus Tour
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By: Rhiannon Winner, Uloop News
When you’re on a campus tour, asking questions is essential. You want to nail down any basic questions like the acceptance rate or housing options, but it’s more than that: you want to get a sense of what life is really like on campus.
Are students more likely to party or study on a Saturday night? Is the campus politically polarized? Do a lot or only a few people participate in clubs? Make sure to ask the questions below (after your student asks some questions first!) to get a sense of what life would really be like at that college for your student.
1. How much time do students typically spend on homework?
You’ll want to know before your student enrolls how rigorous the coursework is. You don’t want them to feel overwhelmed, but at the same time, you probably don’t want them attending a college where students only have a couple of hours of work per day. Your tour guide will probably be equipped with a number of hours approved by the college, but to be sure that you’re getting a response closer to reality, ask about how much time your tour guide specifically spends on homework per night.
2. What is the student retention rate between freshman and sophomore year?
If a college seems perfect on the surface but loses a large amount of freshmen every year, things probably aren’t as great as they appear. No matter what is causing an abnormally large number of students to transfer, you don’t want to stick around to find out. Ideally, your student will love their college and stay for all four years. If the hassle and stress of a transfer can be avoided, it should be.
3. Why did your tour guide choose to attend that college?
Your tour guide might give a standard textbook answer or try to dodge the question, but chances are you’ll have some real insight into what makes that college great. You aren’t asking about something too specific, which leaves your guide open to listing lots of things they love about the college. You’re likely to learn about a program or valuable academic resource you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
4. What is the food like?
Let’s face it: food is a pretty important factor, in no small part because you’ll have to pay for the meal plan even if your student hates the food. The last thing you want to do is pay for an unused meal plan plus all of the meals they buy outside of the college. If the food is pretty bad, the tour guide will probably be quite frank about this. They may sugarcoat it by pointing out other food options locally, but they won’t lie and tell you it’s great when it’s not.
5. What does the typical student do on a weekday?
If your tour guide won’t give you a clear answer about the student body generally, feel free to ask about them specifically. This question is important because parents and students often ask about the social atmosphere on the weekends, but what might be even more important is what happens during the day.
Do students spend every waking hour slaving over homework in the library, or do most have Greek life, clubs, sports, or something else to give them a daily break? How wild or tame the weekends are means nothing if your child is going to be miserable and stressed to the breaking point every weekday.
6. What is the political climate like on campus?
Even if your student considers themselves apolitical, they probably feel strongly about at least a couple of issues. If your student is interested in politics, this question is even more critical. It might seem awkward to ask, but it’s going to be a lot more awkward if your student ends up feeling like a social outcast every time they express their political opinions. Parents in particular are loathe to admit it, but yes, politics can divide students.
There are plenty of students who are friends with those they disagree with, but they shouldn’t feel as if the entire campus is against them. While your student should be regularly challenged on their opinions, you don’t want them to feel completely out of touch with their peers. Stranding a far-left student on an overwhelmingly conservative campus or vice versa could ruin their college career, leaving them feeling like an outcast and struggling to make meaningful connections.
7. What is the cost of study abroad?
Studying abroad is an integral part of the college experience for many students. Although most colleges keep study abroad programs reasonably priced (in the ballpark of what you’d pay if your student stayed on campus) there are some that do not. If your student is planning on studying abroad at some point during their college career, or even if they’re just entertaining the idea, make sure to ask this question. Better to know ahead of time than to end up with a disappointed student unable to study where they’d hoped due to cost.
Finally, make sure to ask questions tailored to your child specifically. If you have concerns about their health or anything else, feel free to ask. But when you do, try to keep things vague to avoid divulging too much personal information. Just remember to focus on your student and what kinds of factors you need to know about that will shape their college experience.
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