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Questions to ask on college tours and at campus information sessions

There are tons of questions you might ask on college tours, but below are some to get you started.

Note: CDS = Common Data Set, G1 = Question G1 in the CDS

Before your visit

It’s best to be prepared before visiting campus, so inform yourself with the information the school puts on their website as well as the data from the Common Data Set (do an internet search for “<school name> common data set”). 

Better to ask questions you can’t get from the website so you can spend your valuable time getting the “inside scoop” from the admissions officers and the students who are actually attending.

The following questions are easily found on a school’s website or their Common Data Set.

Admissions

  • What academic elements are considered in the admissions process (e.g., GPA, rigor, test scores, rank, interests, institutional needs, essays, recommendations, and interviews)? (CDS, C7)
  • How important are each of these factors? (CDS, C7)

Academics

  • What majors and minors do you offer? (Website)
  • What degrees do you offer? (CDS, J1)
  • What are your four-year and five-year graduation rates? (CDS, B4-B11)
  • Do you have an honors college? How do you qualify? (Website)
  • What is your student to faculty ratio? (CDS, I2)

Student life

  • What percentage of the students are male/female? (CDS, C1)
  • How diverse is the campus? (CDS, B2)
  • What activities are offered to students? (CDS, F2)
  • What clubs do you have on campus? (Website)
  • Do you offer ROTC? (CDS, F3)
  • What percentage of students join fraternities and sororities? (CDS, F1)

Housing

  • What percentage of students live on campus? (CDS, F1)

Financial aid

  • How much does it cost to attend, not including financial aid? (CDS, G1-G6)
  • What is the average financial aid package? (CDS, H2)
  • What is the typical breakdown of loans versus grants? (CDS, H2)
  • What percentage of financial need does the school typically meet? (CDS, H2)
  • Will the school be able to prepare a financial aid package that will meet 100% of our demonstrated need? (CDS, H2)
  • What percent of entering freshmen receive aid? (CDS, H2)
  • What is the average freshman aid package? (CDS, H2)
  • What is the average merit award (non-need-based aid)? (CDS, H2)
  • What percentage of students receive grants? (CDS, H2-H6)
  • What is the average college debt that students leave with? (CDS, H4-H5)
  • What types of financial aid does the school offer? (CDS, H12-H15)

During your visit: Campus information session

Information sessions are offered by just about every school, and they’re usually run by an admissions officer. (Sign up on the school’s website.) Questions about the nuts and bolts of the school, as well as financial aid and admissions, are best asked here.

Financial aid

  • How much of need-based aid is in the form of grants? Loans? Work study? 
  • Is there a way aid is packaged (e.g., loans first)? 
  • If we’re unhappy with our aid package, is it negotiable?
  • What work-study opportunities are there?
  • How easy is it to find a job on campus?
  • Is the school need blind? Need aware? In other words, does our ability to pay the full cost of attendance have any impact on the college's decision on admission?
  • Which financial aid forms are required? (The most common two are the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, but some schools have institutional or school-specific forms and some states have special forms.)
  • Will outside scholarships affect the amount of aid the school offers? In other words, will our aid package be reduced by the amount of outside scholarships?

Enrollment and persistence

  • What percentage of freshmen return for sophomore year?

Academics

  • Will our AP or previous college credits (e.g., dual enrollment credit) transfer? 
  • How easy is it to change majors?
  • Are there any special support services if you are a special-needs student (ADD, ADHD, LD, etc.)? How do these support services function and is there any additional cost charged for these services?
  • How many students at the college get internships?
  • What percentage of students study abroad?
  • What percentage of students successfully apply to graduate school?
  • What type of career services does the school offer?
  • Where do graduates find work?

Health and safety

  • What services are offered by the campus health center?
  • Does the student health center refer students to the local hospital? Is it nearby? How large is it?
  • What mental health and support services are offered, and how easy is it for students to access?

During your visit: Campus tour

Campus tours are usually led by a student, most frequently a junior or senior. These tour guides are ideally suited to answer questions about campus life. (However, there are some questions you should not ask them. For those, scroll down.)

Academics

  • What activities and services are available to help students get settled academically during their first year? 
  • Is there an honor code? How does it operate? 
  • How much time do students typically spend on homework?
  • Is homework generally done alone or in study groups?
  • How many classes are taught by profs as opposed to TAs?
  • How much access to professors do students have?
  • What is the average class size of introductory classes? Upper-division courses?
  • What opportunities are there for undergraduate research? How many students take advantage of it?
  • Is there a culminating senior year experience?
  • How do you provide academic advice to students?
  • What type of tutoring programs are offered?
  • Is there a writing center and how is it accessed?
  • How hard is it for students to get the classes they want?
  • Is the teaching innovative, discussion- and project-oriented, or is it mostly lecture-oriented?
  • Can we see a library?

Housing

  • Is on-campus housing guaranteed all four years?
  • Can we see a dorm room?
  • What kind of dorm choices are there (e.g., honors, “living learning centers,” themed, substance free, freshmen, vegetarian, international, by major, Greek, single gender)?
  • Are the dorms spread through the campus or clustered in one area?
  • How large are the rooms? Is there space to study?
  • What amenities do the dorms offer (e.g., kitchens, media rooms, recreation rooms, study rooms, etc.)

Campus safety and health

  • How safe is the campus? (You can ask for a crime report. Federal law requires schools to provide safety information.)
  • Are there mechanisms in place for keeping students safe (e.g., call boxes, campus police, escort-0n-call service, etc.).
  • How large is the campus security police force? Does it patrol the campus regularly?
  • Is there any security system to bar outsiders from entering dorms?

Social culture

  • Do most students go home on the weekend?
  • What activities and services are available to help students get involved socially during their first year?
  • Do fraternities and sororities dominate the social life? How do students who elect not to participate in the Greek system fit in?
  • What do students do for fun?
  • What are the most popular extracurricular activities?
  • What student organizations are active on campus?
  • Where is the central gathering place for students?

Student life and extracurricular activities (clubs, etc.)

  • What’s a typical weekday like?
  • What’s the food like?
  • Are freshmen required to purchase a specific type of meal plan?
  • Do the meal plans provide menus for special diets (e.g., vegetarian, kosher, gluten free, etc.)? 
  • Why did you [the tour guide] choose this school?
  • What do you [the tour guide] love about the school?
  • What would you [the tour guide] change about the school?
  • Is it easy to get around campus? Can you walk to and from classes?
  • What’s the surrounding town like, and what’s it like to live here?
  • What services (such as transportation and shopping) are available locally?
  • Is there any kind of shuttle service between classroom areas, the library, the student union, and the dorms? How late does it run?
  • Can freshmen have cars on campus? What is the fee for having a car on campus?

Athletics

  • What are the intramural athletics options?
  • What are the athletics and recreational facilities like?
  • What kind of sports equipment does the campus have? Is it well-kept?
  • Is there a gym? Is there a fee, or are all students allowed to use it? How hard is it to get time on the equipment?

After your visit: Questions to ask yourself

  • How did the staff members interact with students? Were they friendly or authoritarian?
  • Do most of the students seem like you, or are they completely different?
  • How did the students interact with each other? Were there groups of students chatting, laughing, or tossing around a Frisbee? Were students eating alone? Studying together or alone? Did they seem isolated or part of a larger community?
  • How would you feel about being in a classroom with these students? Sharing a dorm with them?
  • Do the students try to make you feel at home? Were they helpful in answering your questions? 
  • Does the campus seem like a good size for you?
  • Are the dorms too quiet? Too noisy? Too crowded? Not enough action?
  • Can you [the student] see yourself there?

Questions to avoid

  • Don’t ask personal questions of your tour guide (e.g., their financial aid package, SAT scores, or high school GPA).
  • Don’t ask your guide to predict how much financial aid you might receive. They won’t know.
  • Parents: Don’t ask questions that divulge personal information about you.
  • Don’t try to persuade your tour guide to admit you. They don’t have any say in the admissions decisions.

The College Board’s Campus Visit Guide has a number of good tips. 

For more information on college visits, see College visits.