It is beneficial to begin the process of becoming
familiar with a variety of colleges early. It is recommended that you
start this process during the 10th & 11th grades, rather than wait
until the fall of your senior year. Why pay to apply to colleges you
might not like at all once you see them? First visits can be as simple
as driving through campuses whenever possible—such as, while in route to
a sporting event or on your way to your spring or summer break vacation
Tip: College Reps visit Santa Cruz High in
the fall. Be sure to check the Counseling and Career Center for a list
of scheduled College Rep Visits.
When you have narrowed your search to colleges you wish to formally
visit, take advantage of available college tours. College websites, many
of which are listed on our College Search Page, typically provide information about arranging a tour.
The campus tour is the ideal time to ask questions of your student guide
that you don’t want to ask an admissions department interviewer,
especially questions to which you feel you would get a more “up front”
answer from a student. Since the guide works for the university and
might feel obligated to give positive responses only, it is also a good
idea to speak with students who attend the college as well. Plan to have
lunch or coffee in a common area and talk to students sitting near your
table or while standing in line. Questions to ask can be divided into
four areas as follows:
- Do professors teach most freshmen courses, or do graduate students do much of the teaching?
- What is the attitude of most professors toward students? Are they friendly? Accessible? Willing to give extra help?
- How hard do you have to work to be successful?
- Some colleges are doing a lot these days in the area of career
counseling. How does this college stack up? Is there a Career Planning
and Placement Center on campus? What percentage of graduates got jobs
last year? What percentage of graduates go on to professional or
- What do students do on weekends? Do many of them go home? Is the campus empty?
- What is the situation with regard to drinking and drugs? Can a
student be assured of securing a room in a substance-free dorm if
- Try to visit a residence hall and ask in the resident office for information regarding resident options and food plans.
- Are there single-sex dorms? If all dorms are coed, do they have
single-sex floors within dorms or single sex by room? Are bathrooms
- Can a student be assured of living on campus each year if s/he so desires?
- Are there good places nearby to eat, aside from the official dining halls?
- If the school is not co-ed, what kinds of social arrangements are made?
- How important are fraternities and sororities in campus life? Does most social life depend on them?
- Do theatrical companies, orchestras, and other musical groups or
outside lecturers come to the campus? If not, are such activities
available in town?
- Are groups in the college community involved in what’s going on in
the outside world – politics, international relations, and community
service? Or is the atmosphere mostly one of aloofness from such matters?
- How are relations between the town residents and students?
- What’s the transportation like between campus and town? (This is
particularly important at colleges where freshmen are not allowed to
have cars on campus.)
- Is a large urban area accessible? For urban schools, how safe is the neighborhood?
- What social or cultural activities are available in the surrounding area?
- What opportunities exist nearby for hiking, biking or other outdoor activities?
- What kinds of help are available—academic, personal, psychological,
medical—in case you need them? What about medical insurance for
- How are personal problems handled? For instance, what can you do if you your roommate are not compatible?
- Are there lots of rules and regulations on dress, conduct, etc. that must be observed?
- Are there special restrictions for freshmen? For example, parking
is not provided for freshmen, all freshmen must live on campus, etc.
- What do you like most about the college? What do you dislike most?
- What is the general attitude toward students by the college
admissions officers, registrar, dorm managers, assistant deans, and
academic advisors? Once admitted and fees are paid, are freshmen
considered nuisances or quite the opposite?