For prospective students and their families, the process of choosing a college can be an overwhelming one. There are so many factors, so many choices, and so many forms to fill out. But the campus tour is a key step that can help bring clarity to the picture and provide a true glimpse of what college life is like.
The classrooms, dining facilities, residence halls, and landmarks featured in brochures or on websites—nothing makes them come alive like walking among them yourself. Nothing makes parents more comfortable with where their children will eat and sleep better than seeing those places firsthand. And nothing makes the college spirit more tangible than experiencing campus during a football game, homecoming, or other special event.
“Visiting a college campus is the most important aspect of the college search process for prospective students and their families,” says Stephanie Whaley, Director of Admissions at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky. “It is important for students to step foot on the campus, so they can get a feel for the campus and the campus culture.”
The process begins with scheduling a formal tour with the university’s admissions department, which can be done at EKU with just a few clicks online. Schedule the visit while school is in session to get the most well-rounded view of on-campus university life. Here are a few more tips to help parents and prospective students get the most out of a campus tour.
Ask Questions of Everyone
While on campus, parents and prospective students can meet with professors, admissions department personnel, and current students to ask about everything from academic programs to financial aid. EKU has a special program called Spotlight Days where visitors eat in a dining hall, meet with current students in breakout sessions and talk to professors from academic programs throughout the university.
“I would suggest that parents and students come with a list of questions when they visit campus so they can make sure they get everything answered while they’re there,” Whaley says. And don’t forget to visit the admissions department, which can help students fine-tune their options—many prefer a school like EKU, with a 16:1 student-faculty ratio and average class size of 25—and provide the most updated information on financial aid.
Get to Know Your Tour Guides
Sometimes student leaders will guide you on your visit, and it provides the chance to alleviate one of the biggest concerns facing upcoming freshmen—the fear that it will be hard to make new friends. Your tour guides will be full of advice on how to fit in at college, giving you tips on living in residence halls and finding student groups, such as intramural teams, that match your interests. The guides themselves could become your first close connections.
“It’s way easier to make friends than I thought it would be, because everyone is so friendly and open. When I joined an intramural team, I didn’t know anyone, but my teammates are now my closest friends,” said EKU biology major Flynn Blanchet. “I even hang out with my Colonel Crew leader, who showed me around campus my first day.”
Take Photos and Get Social
One of the best ways to keep a campus tour top of mind is to take photos. They’re easily accessible anytime you want to see them, and many prospective students like posting them to social media where special hashtags can unite those going through the same experience.
“Here at EKU, we have several hashtags for our events, and we have a hashtag #FutureColonel for all prospective students visiting campus,” Whaley says. “By posting the photos to social media, they can always go back and refer to them when it’s time to make the decision of which college to attend.”
Following the school’s various social media channels also enables prospective students to keep abreast of what’s happening on campus even after their visit has ended. And experts also advise prospective students to check out campus media—for example, the school newspaper can provide insight into issues and events at the university, and what’s important to a student body.
Make It a Special Event
If families have an entire day or even a weekend to spend on campus, Whaley suggests attending a special event like a sports competition—EKU’s athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division I level—an artistic performance or a guest lecture. Events like this bring a special buzz to campus and can give parents and prospective students a good idea of the energy surrounding daily college life.
Don’t Forget Mom and Dad
Prospective students aren’t the only ones with a stake in the college decision—parents want to know that their children are safe and protected while receiving an education. At EKU, parents are integrated into all visit programs and have their own track at orientation to address their specific concerns.
Financial aid is a common topic among parents, Whaley says. Visiting with admissions allows them to learn about the various scholarship programs for Kentucky residents, or the SMART affordability plan that offers $10,000 tuition for out-of-state students from 15 participating states including neighboring Indiana.
Whaley also advises parents to ask about potential available financial aid from outside the university. “That’s the best advice I have for parents,” she says. “Not only ask financial aid offices about what that institution offers but also what other resources their students could apply for.”
It’s all part of helping parents and students learn what’s available to them and make the hectic process of deciding on a college that much easier.
“The college process in general is very overwhelming to prospective students and their parents, because there are so many components,” Whaley says. “Visiting campus, and talking not just to admissions representatives, but to current students, financial aid representatives, faculty and other staff members, can really help families feel more comfortable with their options.”
Ready to visit campus? Eastern Kentucky University offers an array of tour options, including group tours, daily tours, and Spotlight Days on selected Saturday mornings during the fall and spring terms. To learn more, contact the EKU admissions office online or at (859) 622-2106, or visit their website at admissions.eku.edu.