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Higher Education in Maryland

Questions about College --  Visiting Colleges

football playerIt's hard to figure out if a college is a good fit without spending time there--and talking to students who have been there a year or more.  If your son or daughter is really interested in college, then visit it.  Even if the college is local or a community college, visit the campus.  If your family can't travel to a college, then your son or daughter should at least try to schedule an interview with a local graduate of the college. (See "Choosing a College.")

Plan ahead!

A campus visit goes quickly, so your family should have a plan for the visit.  Here are some things to look into ahead of time:

  • Your son or daughter should find information about tours and contact the admissions office as needed.  Print a campus map from the Internet or ask how to get a campus map before you arrive.
  • Admissions offices generally provide campus tours.  Find out how many tours there are per day.  Do the tours leave from admissions or elsewhere?  Are reservations required?
    How long does a tour last?
  • Ask about visiting a class or two.  Ask which ones are open to visitors, when they are open, and how to go about getting into the class for a visit.
  • If the college suggests or requires an interview, schedule it before the visit.  Parents may also be able to schedule an interview with a financial aid officer to take place while the student meets with admissions staff for an interview.  (See "Choosing a College.")
  • Find out if parking is readily available and if you will have to pay.  Inquire if parking lots/garages are far from the building where your meeting will take place, and if there is a place where you can drop off people who can't walk far?
  • Look at the college website and catalog.  Think about what you want to learn on campus and try to figure out where you can find that information while on campus.
  • Your son or daughter should consider attending an extracurricular activity you would like to participate in as a student. Find out where and when activities take place.
  • Schedule enough time to see and do all you want to do on campus and in the area.

What to Bring:

  • Comfortable shoes. - campuses can be spread out, and you may be walking a long time.
  • Layered clothing. - some buildings may be well air-conditioned and some may not.
  • Pen, paper, and a list of questions to ask.  (See the back side of this page!)
  • A lightweight bag for carrying your pen, paper, and information you pick up on campus.
  • A camera, if you have one.
  • Anything the college may have asked you to bring.
  • Money for lunch, parking, and other incidental expenses.

Remember, the Tour is an Introduction, Not the Whole Visit

Eat the food in the cafeteria.  Talk to people.  Poke around the library.  Where do people study?  Where do people relax?  Visit a class.  Walk through an academic building.  Are professors in their offices with their doors open?  Do you see faculty talking to students other than in class?  (Professors hold office tours to meet with students.)  Pick up a copy of the student newspaper.  What does the paper say about student concerns.

Questions to Ask During a Campus Visit

A college tour guide will tell you some things students need to know.  Talking to students there will provide more information.  And then there are some questions that may not come up that can give you a clearer picture of life on the campus.  Look over the other sections of this brochure for questions.  Here are a few more students and parents could ask of guides and students:

1. Have you been happy here?  What do you like best?  What would you change if you could?

2.  What are your favorite courses?  Why?

3.  What are the most popular majors?

4.  Who are your favorite professors, what do they teach, and why do you like them?

5.  What percentage of first-year students return to this college for their second year of college?

6.  What is the graduation rate for students here?  How much does that rater vary if students are ...low-income?  Latino? from rural high schools? from inner-city schools?

7.  What is the average amount of time it takes students to graduate?

8.  If a student is having trouble in a course, what kind of free help is available?  Can you get that help without a faculty referral?

9.  What is the average size of a general education course here?  (Ask about individual fields--an introductory English course is likely to be smaller than an introductory science course.)

10.  Do classes often fill before the first-year students are allowed to register for classes?  If so, what accommodations are made for first-year students having a hard time being admitted into classes?

11.  What is the average size of a lower level course (first- or second-year course) in  _______? ]name the major that interests the student]

12.  What is the average amount of time it takes a student in ___________ to graduate?

13.  What type of support services are available for students having problems? (This could be physical, mental, academic, roommate-related etc.)

14.  Is this dorm room we're seeing typical for a first-year dorm room?  How big is the typical first-year dorm room?  What's the maximum number of people in a first-year dorm room?

15.  For how many years are students guaranteed campus housing?

16.  What kind of extracurricular activities are available to students?

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