FOr many high school students, college tours can be one of the most imoprtant factors when choosing a college. Tours are the best way to learn what the school has to offer: from football to financial aid, as well as the details students usually don't think to ask about like transportation, food and libraries
There are several options when planning a visit to a college campus. Some high schools organize visits so students see the campus and hear from an admissions officer. This type of tour is helpful because of its convenience -- especially if the school isn't nearby -- but sometimes these tours can feel rushed and impersonal.
Kelsey Haddox, a senior at Ogden High School, visited Southern Utah University as part of a summer leadership academy. Students toured the campus and attended guest lectures.
"I learned that the class sizes there are very small and you are able to get to know professors on a personal basis," Haddox said. "While I was there I did apply to the school. The idea of a close-knit school with students from everywhere was appealing and the tour did impact my decision."
A second option is to schedule a tour with the student recruitment office. Many schools have tours scheduled each day and only require you to let them know in advance if you plan on attending. These tours usually begin with an information session regarding admission requirements, financial aid and student life before a student ambassador shows the group around campus.
Tours show students most of the campus, but can be tailored to the groups' interests. If most students are interested in a school's theater program, for instance, the tour guide might spend less time in the social sciences building and more time discussing the school's latest production of "Victor/Victoria."
Regardless of how you tour a college, it's important to look for certain factors in every school.
Watch for student involvement. It's unlikely that you'll find performers and protests on every corner, but you should see some evidence of student participation around campus. Are there fliers advertising student organizations? Do you see any publications? Even if you don't plan on joining many student organizations it is good to have lots of options.
Tour the housing, even if you don't plan to live on campus. Look at the student union building, classrooms and libraries. Judge these buildings based on their appearance. Although this shouldn't be the deciding factor, it can indicate how well taken care of the facilities are. No one wants to spend four years in an ugly, run-down school unless the education is truly phenomenal.
When Jaymee Blackler, a senior at DaVinci Academy, toured BYU-Idaho, one of her favorite features of the campus was the gardens.
"They have a beautiful garden that the agriculture students planted and sometimes they hold mini concerts there," she said.
Tell the guide what you are interested in. This can include majors, study-abroad programs, clubs or housing. It is your student ambassador's job to give you all of the information you need so that you'll choose their school, and a recruiter can only do their job if they know your interests.
Know what you want in a school. Even if you are undecided on a major, there are plenty of other factors to look for in a school. It is important to have a rough idea of what you want in terms of campus size, location, cost or student life. This can help you narrow down your options. Before touring a school, find out some of these basics first.
Pay attention. It can be more fun to people-watch or talk to your friends, but that's just as easy to do at the mall. Tour guides are usually in the last one or two years of college, so he or she will have a lot of stories about the school. Simply listening to the guide and seeing the campus firsthand can give you a lot of insight about the school that isn't available from a view book.
Ariel Froerer, a senior at DaVinci Academy, toured the University of Utah hoping to learn more about its academic programs but was also impressed with other features.
"The library was incredible, and it felt like there was a restaurant down every hallway," Froerer said. "I was impressed with how nice and updated their buildings were."
Nathan Jacquez, a Weber High School senior, toured Southern Utah University and Westminster College to learn about each school's premed program.
"The tour at SUU was great. Our guide knew everything there is to know and was extremely helpful," Jacquez said. "They paired us with guides that are in the same area of study we are in, so I got a guy who is in the premed program and he knew everything about it. He answered my questions like a champ."
Jacquez was less impressed with the information he was given at Westminster College.
"My guide knew the basics but really didn't answer my questions about the premed program," he said. "The campus is pretty, but it's not somewhere I can see myself looking at every day."
Campus tours are one of the most accessible and informative resources for students when deciding which colleges to apply to. Even students who have already applied and received their acceptance letters can benefit from tours. Many schools hold an Accepted Students Day each spring for students who plan on attending the school or may still be undecided.
For many students a good tour can become the deciding factor when picking a college or university.
"The better the tour," Blackler said, "the more I want to go to the school."
Katie Byrd is a senior at DaVinci Academy. She is editor of her school paper and an active member of the National Honor Society. Contact her at email@example.com.