What to Expect: The Formal Tour
One of the easiest things to do on a college visit is take a guided tour. Most schools offer both group tours and private tours, and both are excellent ways to start your campus visit.
During the tour, a tour guide -- usually a current student -- takes you on a walk to different places on campus that are important to see, such as the library, some of the class buildings and often a dorm to see what those are like. You'll learn some of the basic information about the school, such as the number of students, the size of the classes and any historical tidbits the guide mentions. Tours usually last a couple of hours.
Tours are a good time to ask questions about the school from someone who's trained to answer them. Don't be shy. If something concerns you, or if there is something you want to know, ask about it. How else will you get the answers you need?
Some schools also offer overnight stays in the dorms or an opportunity to shadow a current student, both of which offer you a feel for the living conditions and what the school is like from a student's perspective. For an overnight stay, you might be paired up with a current college student or another overnight tour-taker.
Colleges may hold departmental information sessions and open houses, too. These events provide an opportunity to get more detailed information about departments you're interested in, including the classes they offer and what their programs are like. You might even have a chance to speak with faculty members and ask more specific questions about the majors and courses you're interested in.
Speaking of asking questions, you may also have lined up that interview we just discussed. Interviews could be with an admissions officer, an alumnus or even a current student.
Another great way to learn about a campus is simply to walk around. In the next section, we'll explain why it's important to take your own, informal tour of the campus.