College Tours: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

We recently kicked off College Tour Season 3. Season 1 was 4 years ago, in the fall, with Big Brother. Season 2 was this summer with Middle Sister, and she has a whole new set of schools she wants to visit this fall (as well as two repeat visits and one interview). I’ve attended all the tours to date, and there’s only one I’ll be missing this fall. All these tours have taught me a few things about how universities put their best–and worst–feet forward.

All the DOs and DON’Ts listed below are things I have personally seen happen. Some of them happened at more than one university. I won’t “tag” the schools that are DON’Ts, but I do want to give credit where due to the DOs.

If you’re a Catholic school:

DON’T stand in the chapel with a group of high-school seniors and their parents and say, “We don’t force religion on you here, except for the 2 or 3 religion classes everyone has to take.”

seton hallDO invite your tour group to visit the chapel; give your speech outside the chapel and let people who wish to see it go inside and visit it quietly so as not to disturb those who are inside praying, and mention the availability of Campus Ministry’s worship opportunities for people of all faiths. (Nicely done, Seton Hall!)

If the weather is inclement:

DON’T wander your tour in circles all over campus, passing the same building three or four times and almost never going inside.

holy family universityDO route your tour through as many buildings as possible and provide plenty of ice-cold water bottles at the start and finish of tours on hot summer days. (Way to go, Holy Family!)

If you have a really big campus:

DON’T group your tours according to the students’ projected major and then tell your group that you can’t take them to see ANY of the buildings in their major because they’re “not within walking distance.” But you’ll be happy to put them on a campus bus with no tour guide so they can wander around in the buildings without guidance.

DON’T hand out a visitor’s parking pass for a lot as far as possible from the Admissions Office. That’s where the tour should start. Visitors shouldn’t already be tired when they get there.

widener logoDO offer a major-specific Open House date so students can get plenty of information from faculty and students in their chosen academic area. (Props to Widener!)

When you tour the dorms:

DON’T avoid the buildings where most freshmen live, choosing to pass it and drag the whole tour group to a faraway point on campus so they can see the newest, spiffiest dorm with all the bells and whistles, and then informing them that it’ll be at least two years before they get to live in it because they have to be upperclassmen to get a room in there.

DON’T take Saturday-morning tours through the Party Dorm. Just don’t. Trust me on this one.

The way to a student’s heart is through the stomach:

DO provide refreshments to people arriving for a campus tour. Many of them have been traveling for hours to see your school. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; water bottles, coffee, and cookies are most welcome. (Thanks, LaSalle and Holy Family!)

DO offer a voucher for a meal in the dining hall. It’s nice for prospective students (and their parents) to get a taste of what’s offered. (Much appreciated, Widener!)

It’s the little things:

DON’T send out a student-led tour group without a short greeting from an Admissions staffer or someone from Student Affairs. We went through one entire tour without hearing a word from anyone other than the student worker who showed us around.

wculogoDO give visiting students a discount coupon to use in the campus store. (Nice touch, West Chester!)

arcadiaDO offer to waive the application fee for students who attend Open House events. (Good job, Arcadia!)

For the record:  some of these experiences took place 4 years ago, but my opinion still stands. I plan to update this as College Tour Season continues.


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