Campus visits are a crucial part of the process of choosing a university. Visiting colleges can provide a lot of key information about individual schools and whether you would be happy there. However, college visits are also time-consuming and can be expensive, so it’s really important to get the maximum amount of information from each visit.
Lots of different campus community members can provide you with advice and information to help you decide whether a school would be a good fit for you. We recommend speaking with students, professors, admissions officers, and financial aid staff to get a full picture of what attending a school would be like.
It’s important to choose the questions you ask these community members carefully. Be sure not to ask questions that you can easily find the answer to online (how many students attend University X? Are University Y’s admissions need-blind? Do I have to submit an ACT/SAT score?).
It’s also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your visit so you can cover all the key topics you want to learn more about with community members. To help you out, we’ve provided a starter list of questions below. You don’t have to ask every question. Instead, pick the ones that you most want to learn the answers to.
Questions to ask students:
Students are easily the most valuable source of information about a university. They can help you understand what a school’s academic and student life are really like and show you what your experience at a school would be like.
Try to talk to at least a few students at each school you plan to apply to and note their responses. Even if you can’t visit campus, you may be able to set up a phone call with current students or speak online. In addition to using their answers to help you figure out if you want to go to a specific school, you can share the insights they gave you in your college essays to explain why you want to attend each school.
When talking to current students, you want to get a full sense of their experiences at college, from academics to student life to opportunities off campus. As such, it’s usually helpful to ask students about their classes, the clubs they are in, their career opportunities, their perspective of the campus community, and what they like most about the school.
Here are some of the best questions to ask current students on a college visit:
- Why did you choose to attend University X?
- How diverse is University X?
- What is your favorite part of attending University X?
- What is the worst part of attending University X?
- Is there anything that should be improved?
- Are you happy at University X?
Classes and Academics:
Note: try to speak with students in the majors you’re considering to get the most accurate view of what your college experience may be like.
- How easy is it to contact professors, administrators, and staff?
- Which majors have the best reputations? Which majors are less well known or respected?
- What is your favorite class you’ve taken and why?
- How difficult is it to take your first classes?
- Does University X offer help sessions, tutoring, or writing assistance services?
- Do professors offer research opportunities for undergraduate students?
- Do professors hold regular office hours?
- Are your classes discussion-based, project-based, or lecture-based?
- How easy is it to take advantage of study-abroad opportunities?
- How much time do you spend on coursework per week?
- What is the average class size of first-year courses? What is the average size of upper-level courses and/or seminars?
- Are most of your classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
- What activities are you involved in outside of class?
- Are there particular groups that dominate the campus culture?
- What is a typical day at University X like?
- What influence does Greek life have on campus?
- How would you describe your classmates?
- How would you describe the social scene on campus?
- How inclusive is the campus culture? How do students treat people with different views?
- How easy is it to get around campus? Can you walk to all your classes or do you need to take a shuttle, bus, or car?
- What health services does the college offer?
- Does the school have a Career Office? Has it been helpful to you?
- Does University X help students find internships, summer jobs, and other work experience during school?
- Do alumni come to campus to network with and mentor students?
- Do most students stay on campus during the weekend?
- What are some of the most popular places to hang out off campus?
- Do most students live on campus? What off-campus housing options exist and does University X help students find options?
Questions to ask professors:
Before your campus visit, it can be helpful to reach out to a few professors that teach courses in your potential major(s) to see if they would be available to meet with you or answer your questions by email. Professors can help you understand if a specific major will help you meet your goals and give you a more complete picture of what and how you’ll learn in your major.
That said, it is important to remember that the major benefit a professor can offer you is information. Do not ask the professor to recommend you to the admissions committee. If they offer to help, feel free to take them up on the offer but remember that your official recommendation letters should come from recommenders who are more familiar with your experiences.
Here are a few key questions you can ask professors to get a better sense of the academic programs at the universities you’re interested in:
- What advice would you give a student on how to be successful in [major] at University X?
- Which classes in [major] would you recommend?
- What research opportunities does the department offer for undergraduate students?
- What coursework is most common? Do students usually complete a capstone project or thesis?
- What opportunities does the department offer outside of classes to learn more about [major]?
- What are the strengths of [major] at University X? What are the downsides to choosing this major?
- What tutoring and academic assistance does the department provide?
- What is the most important thing you wish your students knew about taking a class with you?
- (Feel free to ask more specific questions about topics and career paths within your major and how the department covers them. Professors are always happy to see that you are deeply interested in their field and that you’ve done your research.)
Questions to ask admissions officers:
Before enjoying all a campus has to offer, you have to get accepted to the school. Admissions officers are the best source of information on how the admissions process works at their particular school, and so it’s best to focus on your admissions questions with them. However, it is also helpful to ask them questions about student life and what brought them to the school to show your interest in and enthusiasm about attending the school.
- Do University X’s admissions requirements differ by major or school?
- Which student groups and activities are the most popular?
- Which employers recruit on campus?
- Can I submit supporting materials with my application? If so, how are these additional materials considered?
- Does University X offer special programs to help freshmen acclimate to campus?
- What changes or major initiatives is University X pursuing in the next four years?
- What makes University X students unique?
- What made you want to work for University X?
- What qualities are you looking for in applicants?
- What type of student would be happiest at your school? What type of student would not be happy here?
- How diverse and inclusive is your campus?
- How long is on-campus housing guaranteed?
- Does University X grant college credit for AP/IB courses?
- Does University X have any cross-registration partnerships with other universities?
Questions to ask financial aid officers:
Your choice of college could cost or save you thousands of dollars. As such, it is very important to think about how much each school will cost you and what financial aid they offer when you’re choosing a college. The college’s financial aid office is the best source of information about how affordable a school is. Before speaking with the financial aid office, review the school’s website so that you understand the basics of their financial aid offerings and can ask more advanced questions.
It is crucial to remember that your financial aid must cover four years at the school. Questions about how your aid package will change over the years and what you must do to keep merit aid awards are essential to make sure that your college costs won’t rise unexpectedly after freshman year.
- What is your average financial aid award?
- What is the typical percentage of grants/scholarships vs. loans in your aid packages?
- How do your aid packages change after freshman year?
- Does University X offer merit scholarships?
- What are the cutoffs for merit awards?
- What percentage of students receive merit-based aid? What percentage receive need-based aid?
- What standards do students have to meet or exceed to keep their merit aid?
- What is the average total debt that University X students graduate with? What percent of students graduate without loans?
- What work-study opportunities does University X offer? Does the school offer priority hiring for students on financial aid?
- Are there any other sources of financial aid available?
- What happens if my family’s finances change while I am in school?
- What additional charges should I take into account beyond the cost estimate University X provides (e.g., books, transportation, activity fees)?
- Do your financial aid awards cover study abroad programs?
- What percentage of financial need do you meet for students?
We hope you enjoy your college visits!