This is a question we get often, and we want to start by debunking a theory about touring colleges. A lot of students and parents think that they’re touring colleges in order to make a grand impression and to demonstrate interest in that particular school. And that is not the case.
Soon we’ll get to the questions-you-should-be-asking part, but let’s start by talking about demonstrated interest because many of the questions we get about tours are in some way related to it.
If you’re reading this and thinking “Wait I thought demonstrated interested was a huge deal and it’s part of the reason I’m going (or taking my child) on this tour,” it’s probably because it used to be considered an essential part of the process for getting into college. Ways to demonstrate interest include taking a tour, enrolling in a summer program, doing an interview, and basically anything else that shows you might one day want the option of going to any particular school. But a lot of schools are shying away from the emphasis on demonstrated interest.
In 2018, Carnegie Mellon dedicated this page of their website with their updated stance on demonstrated interest. Basically, Carnegie Mellon says that demonstrated interest is no longer something they consider because 1) they want to focus more on diversity and inclusion and 2) they want a leveler playing field.
We fully support that notion, because demonstrated interest is a derivative of privilege. There are plenty of highly qualified kids from all over the world that can’t afford to visit every school they apply to. But, discounting demonstrated interest also means that more kids will apply, which will in turn lower colleges acceptance rates. In other words, if kids believe that visiting a school is completely unnecessary, why not apply everywhere and see if I get in? Even without knowing much about the school. The number of applications sky rocket, and admission rates plummet.
We did not write all of that for no reason. It’s just that we believe that if your primary focus when walking into a college tour is making a good impression, then you’re missing the point of the college tour itself. And let’s face it, if you’re stressing about what question to ask, you’re probably more worried about your image than your feelings on the school.
We’re NOT saying that you shouldn’t visit the schools you’re interested in. You definitely should. We’re saying that it’s time to shift the focus of the college tours and make them about YOU. You’re touring colleges to get to know the school, not so that they can get to know you. Here’s something to think about: the tour guide on any given day is a college student that is more than likely doing some kind of work study program or volunteering for fun. The 19 year old triple major will have absolutely no bearing on whether or not you get into any school. They do not walk into the admissions office and say good (or bad) things about you.
Now, about the questions. Our suggestions are simple:
Ask questions that come to you naturally
Don’t ask a question just to sound smart (you won’t sound smart)
Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you have to prepare a list of questions in advance.
A note on that. Do you remember in middle school when that one overly enthusiastic teacher used to make everyone read a sentence or a paragraph out loud to the rest of the class? So instead of listening to what others read, you would turn into a math wizard: count the number of people in front of you, figure out which paragraph you’re going to read, then practice it until your teacher gently nudges you and lets you know it’s your turn? The point is, sometimes preparing to ask questions (or speak out loud) makes people really anxious. And worse yet, you don’t pay attention to a single thing because all you’re focused on is nailing your part. If you’re on your way to the tour and think of something you want to ask (and it’s not going to take away from the experience because you’re following the guide around trying to get a word in) then by all means ask a question. But going into a tour without any questions is totally fine too.
The bottom line is that your time is much better spent trying to figure out if you actually like the college. Look around, take mental pictures, and have fun. Talk to students if you can. Bring our college visit notepad and immediately after, write down everything the comes to mind.
Also, you should only do an interview if you want to. Most colleges say that interviews don’t have an effect on the application process because they can’t interview everyone, so they can’t give any true weight to the interview. But if you think it will help you gain a better understanding of the school, then go for it. Again, it’s about you.
Contact us here if you want to work with someone one on one. We’re experts at helping students through this process.