Cogent Questions for College Visits
(Ah Alliteration!) A useful Mnemonic, as well as a new word to learn!
Okay, so let’s discuss those college visits; as I have said in previous articles, the summer time is actually a fantastic time for college tours. Why? So many people have told you that you should only go to colleges during the school year. Nonsense. Truly and utterly nonsense. The summer is the perfect time as there are fewer students, more attention by the Admissions representatives and tour guides, and deals on the local hotels as school is not in session. Some of the hotels (you have to ask when you arrive-will give you an extra 10-15% if they know you are going on a college tour in a college town. Remember some chains-those associated with Marriott, for example, have a variety of types of hotels and offer 10% for AAA Membership up front, and upon arrival, you might get an additional 10% off for the college visit. So check into it. Plus, you can visit a few different schools in a state or plan a regional trip and get at least 6-10 schools in a week.
Do you need to do college visits at all? No. If you cannot afford to travel, you do not have to go to a school. Upon acceptance, some schools offer a special program where you can go, stay in a dorm, and attend classes, with minimal to no charge, except the travel. You can do 360 degree tours online. It is nice, if you have the time and budget to do a few tours in the summer to get a feel for the types of schools, the size, whether you like to walk a lot around a campus, or take a subway in a city. Summer, generally, has better weather, which can impact an impression greatly. Touring during pouring rain and sleet does not bode well for a happy college visit. Also during the summer, you can see what the school is like in terms of location, look, and student accessibility to towns, hang outs, and a quick look to see where the arenas and shops are, etc. If you fall in love with a school, you can go back in the fall or after acceptance to see how it all goes with a huge student body in attendance.
However, when you go on your tour, you want to make the most of the experience. Many students just follow along, listen to the information session, remain silent while guided around the school, and walk away with a very cursory experience. Many students have truly made up their minds simply based on whether they liked the tour guide. This is ridiculous. One person doesn’t make a school, and you are just as responsible for making the experience worthwhile as the school, Admissions, and the student guides. You have to be active and participate in this experience too. So how to become active, learn to ask good and great questions! Yes, make an impression by how interested you are in what you would like to know. Don’t memorize some list that other students have inquired ad infinitum! I don’t want to hear you asking tour guides or representatives: “what’s the student/teacher ratio?” The answers to those types of questions are on every college’s website. Show some initiative. Make an impression about what you ACTUALLY want to know and share something of yourself in the process.
What are good or great questions? Well, that depends a lot on you. What are you doing in school that excites you? What are you doing in school that is frustrating? What captures your attention? Where do you like to shine and show off? Think clearly about you. This is where starting the student resume (not the one on Naviance-although it is a start) but a good resume. If you do not have a template, you can get one for free, just Contact Us!
So let’s build a student case to develop some great questions. You should do this yourself. If you need help, you can always book a single session with me, and we can get it started together. Single sessions are very affordable.
Smart Student is looking to go to a school that has big time sports because he loves athletics, both playing soccer in his school, and watching basketball, particularly college basketball. He enjoys math greatly; he feels this is where he is the smartest and brightest. He was in AP AB Calculus in sophomore year. He enjoys history. He struggles to write a decent paper in English. He is frustrated with a lot of reading, but does enjoy doing the plays. He can memorize dialogue easily. He enjoys science but not nearly as much as math. He plays guitar at home. He has three siblings-one older brother, and twin younger sisters, who have not even entered middle school yet. His older brother is in his second year of college at a small New England college, and he considers his brother to be the opposite of himself. He spent three weeks during the summer of his freshman year in Central America doing community service. He took amazing photographs, improved his Spanish, and keeps in touch with some of the other students who were on the trip. He plans to take a college course for 6 weeks during his rising junior summer in New York City. He is also going on vacation to India for two weeks with his family. He likes to photo-journal his trips, and he has learned several different media apps and programs that enable him to edit, make stories, and create a visual adventure, for which he has won school prizes for in photography class.
So what do you think Smart Student should ask when he visits his prospective colleges this summer? Let’s help him develop a list of interesting questions, which both elicit information about what he likes and needs while also sharing something that might make him memorable to the people he meets at the schools. Keep that idea in mind when you create your questions. You can search 10 questions to ask on a college tour, but none of those questions offer something in return…creating your own is personal, imaginative, intelligent, and leaves a great impression. Be that student!
Going on Smart Students academics let’s figure out 3 good questions to ask.
-I love math and have advanced to AP BC Calculus in my junior year. I am wondering what types of higher level math courses I could take in the College, which would be challenging? Or considering how much math plays to my interests and strengths, perhaps I should consider your Engineering school (Architecture)? Is there someone or some resources I should check before I leave today?
-I have difficulty with writing; I understand that there is a writing requirement at (University U) Are there options for this requirement or does everyone have to take the same course?
-Are the general requirements specific or are there options within each? I am not so fond of certain English courses, but I have found drama to be exciting. I participate in my school’s theater program. I was curious if I could take a course in Shakespeare’s plays to satisfy my course requirement or if I would have to follow a specific program?
Do you see how we give a little with each question, and we get a little too? There is a way to develop your questions so that you actually create a dialogue, not just a Q&A. Of course, there will be other people asking questions, and your guide will be pointing out things and sharing information about the school, but you can have a few questions of this nature prepared to ask at an appropriate time, perhaps when course or academic requirements are discussed, or perhaps, when you are walking by different schools such as College of Liberal Arts versus the Engineering School, etc.
Now let’s think of 3 questions that give Smart Student some idea about the school’s athletics and club sports, as these are very exciting and enjoyable activities for him.
-I loved watching the NCAA Tournament this past March, I had the “Bears” going to the Final 4. How was it here when you guys made it to the Elite 8, was the school going crazy? Is there an easy way for students to get tickets to the basketball games?
-I play soccer at school, varsity. However, my school is not doing as well as others, so I am not trying to get recruited, but does University U have good Club Soccer? What other really good Club sports are there here? I heard that the Fraternities had intermural teams.
-Is it challenging to participate in a lot of clubs, club sports, Fraternities, and also Community Service? How do you fit in doing what you love and have fun doing with the academics here? At school now, our schedules are set during the day, so we can fit a lot in after and on weekends, but I have heard people take classes here at night and was wondering how an average first year deals with making it all work?
Now some of these seem generic, but really they aren’t so much so because how they are asked is the key. Smart Student is trying to offer his own preferences while eliciting valuable information from someone who has walked that road before him at this school. Moderation, intonation, and listening are key components to making your questions make the impression you want to leave with this school. Offer a little, listen a lot, and ask what matters to you. Write down key attributes and experiences you have and educate yourself a bit about the school before you go and PAY ATTENTION at the information session. NOT to hear the same old, same old, but to hear what isn’t the same old, same old.
So finally, let’s try to add some other interesting questions about Smart Student’s choices and University U’s offerings for perhaps a major, or test requirements, or some activities.
-I listened to the SAT/ACT requirements during the Information session. It seemed like a very broad range, but when I have talked to other students, it seems there is a pretty high cut off; do you know if there is a difference? What does the average applicant typically have to have? I heard that the range included all the recruited athletes, which alters the whole picture for the average non-recruited student.
-How many different media products does University U create? I love to take pictures and have taken many photo-shop courses. I have even won some awards. My ideal would to be able to work on the digital media for the Athletics department. Is there just one publication or several?
-I know there is a Semester abroad option, but I was wondering if there is a school program in the Native Language not just an American School abroad. I have traveled and will travel abroad this summer, and when I was in Costa Rica, I was speaking Spanish most of the time. I would like to improve my spoken Spanish, and I was wondering if the Semester Abroad programs included schools in the native language of the country?
-Is it difficult to start a club or activity? Is it easier to do through the Greek Society? I have had experience participating in fund-raising drives that I played guitar with others for a concert. I think I want to continue doing these types of events, but do not know if this is something best left to do with a Fraternity or if there is a formal program to start a club?
These are just 10 sample questions designed for Smart Student. Will he ask all of them? Probably not. But if the tour is 20 minutes, and there are maybe 6 people (another reason to go in the summer) on the tour, then he might get a chance to ask at least 6 questions. He can keep the conversation going, learn a lot, and share a lot.
Be sure to not be the student who follows along silently, occasionally awkwardly laughing at a comment, staring at your shoes or WORSE-using your phone!!! DO NOT BRING YOUR PHONE ON YOUR TOUR!!! Or if you must, put it on Airplane Mode. Using your phone during the Information Session or Guided Tour is an impression—a very, very bad impression. Be respectful and polite. My goodness, people are taking the time to introduce you to a school you might spend four years attending. You can give someone at least an hour of your attention. If you participate, effectively, you might actually enjoy the tour more and walk away actually feeling part of the experience as well.
Need support to learn how to do this for you, book a session! We can help. We can make this College Touring process memorable, valuable, effective, and enjoyable.