5 Campus Tour Activities Every Student Should Do

Don't miss out on these five activities that will make your campus visit more fun (and informative).

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Student-led tours of Vassar College include the telling of a time-honored Vassar myth: Jane Fonda, a Vassar alumna, showed up for afternoon tea not wearing the required gloves and pearls. She was sent to her room to get her gloves and pearls, and she returned to the tearoom wearing only her gloves and pearls. The tour also includes a history of the college, and walks through important buildings, but it is the Jane Fonda story that tends to stick.

This narrative strategy is not unique to Vassar; campus tour guides know that prospective students are prone to forget facts, but remember stories. And so tour guides shouldn’t be the only storytellers on your visit! If you think of each college tour as less of an obligation and more of an adventure, you’ll have stories to share at the end of the day. And just a few months down the road, those stories will bring your “Why I Want to Attend Your College” essay and your admissions interviews to life!

Talk to students: Current students are your greatest resource. Most students are happy to answer your questions about their college.

Here are five ways you can make the most of your college visit:

1. Bring (and use!) a journal: While you are on campus, take note of details that captures your imagination. Is there a building that appeals to you? Did you overhear a snippet of conversation? You can also write down any gut reactions you have about the school and the environment, but the more specific you can be in the moment, the more you’ll have to work with later.

2. Talk to students: Current students are your greatest resource. Most students are happy to answer your questions about their college. Try these (and keep your journal nearby to write down their exact words):

  • What’s your next class? What’s the professor like? What are you reading? What’s the funniest thing that’s happened in that class?
  • What activities do you do outside of class?
  • What’s one thing you think I should know that I won’t find out on the campus tour?
  • Did you take a campus tour? What stood out on your tour? Was there something special that made you want to apply?

3. Have lunch on campus: The best way to get a sense of the campus food is to have some yourself! Spending time in the dining area will also give you a glimpse of campus social life. Are students meeting for lunch? Are they meeting with professors or extracurricular groups? Friends? Are there student organizations distributing information or hosting bake sales?

4. Read the bulletin boards and pick up a copy of the college newspaper: The fliers posted around campus will give you a great idea of the lectures, events, concerts, sports, and other happenings around campus. The newspaper will show you which local and national issues matter to students.

5. Explore: The campus tour will take you to the major landmarks, but wandering around on your own allows you to imagine yourself as a student there. Write down what happens when you strike out on your own.

At the end of your visit, take out your journal and write down everything you remember. You don’t need to decide if you’re applying or not right away, but having a collection of stories about your visits will help you when the time comes to finalize your list. And when the time comes to apply, you have the tools you need to complete a powerful supplement essay. But for right now, relax and think about all of the stories you’ll have to share with your friends!

Carol Barash, PhD is the founder and CEO of Story To College, a global education company that teaches courses in schools and online.

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