College Tours and Visits: Questions to Ask a College Representative
Questions to Ask a College Representative: Part 1
Deciding which colleges and universities to apply to is a big task that takes time and research. One of my favorite ways to research is visiting college campuses. This can be an overwhelming part of the college process, especially if you’ve never done it before. This week, I have created a three-part blog post series that dives deep into the importance of college visits. I am so excited to share that this series will be featuring three incredible admission professionals that are knowledgeable, devoted, and of course, fun!
My first guest in this series is Sean Racine, Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Enrollment Marketing at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sean is candid and thoughtful in his responses, and I am thrilled to be introducing him to this community.
In your experience, what are some helpful questions that prospective students should be asking when they visit a college campus?
The types of questions students should ask when visiting a college campus should pertain to what type of experience they are looking for. Most often, prospective students are meeting with current students when they visit college campuses. These are the experts when it comes to the academics, the opportunities, and the life on campus. The best tour guides are authentic and approachable. Engage with them and try to picture yourself in their shoes.
Try to limit the questions that can be answered by a yes or no. While it might be easier to get a quick answer, a simple yes or no may not provide the most accurate representation. Let’s say you’re a dancer. You could ask, “Do you have a dance team?” or you could say, “What types of opportunities are there for someone interested in dancing?” The former answers your specific question but may leave out other experiences you wouldn’t even know about. Perhaps the school doesn’t have a dance team, but could have multiple clubs, service sites, and/or performance groups that would allow you to use your talents. It’s a similar question with an altered approach that yields a drastically different answer.
Are there different questions students should be asking at a college fair versus a high school visit?
Think of it like you’re going clothes shopping. You walk into stores, you look through the racks, and maybe you find a few things that you like. You then have to ask, Does it come in my size? Is it too expensive? Does it look better in blue or red? That’s a college fair. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of colleges represented, and you have no idea where to begin. Feel free to walk around first and find some that you like, whether it’s because you see an interesting major, love the pretty campus, or think the admission representative looks friendly. You then should go up to those tables, introduce yourself, and ask some preliminary questions. See what types of programs are available, tell them about an interest or two, and take some materials with you. I recommend keeping the questions relatively similar so that it gives you an easy way to compare colleges afterward.
The high school visit is like what happens when you find some clothes that you like. You need to try them on, see how they fit. The high school visit is typically more intimate. It can range from a filled classroom to a one-on-one with the representative. You can certainly take the time to ask more specific questions, ask for more explanation, hear about admission processes, and come away with a better understanding. After the high school visit, you should feel more confident about whether you are going to apply or “put it back on the rack.”
Do the questions a student asks an admissions counselor make a difference in the potential to be accepted?
No, so ask me anything! The more open, honest, and knowledgeable you are, the better off you will be. College is an investment, so you’ll want to make sure you’re making the right decision. The admission process is not a popularity contest, but rather an assessment of your college readiness. Any question you ask that leaves you feeling more confident, less stressed, and ultimately more prepared for this journey is a good question.
To date, what has been your favorite question(s) that you have been asked?!
I think one of my favorite questions has been, “What is your college currently doing to better itself?” I remember being blown away by the young lady who asked me that question. It was so simple, yet so profound in its meaning. Often, the college admission process revolves around how the student will leave that school better off than when they arrived. However, this girl realized that she could not better herself if the place that was teaching her was not striving to do the same. My career is built on answering the same types of questions to hundreds of different people, year after year. Any time a question can disrupt that cycle, I’ll remember it.
What has been your least favorite question, or one that you feel doesn't really serve the student?
“How is your ____ major?” or “Do you have ____ major?” First off, I dare you to find an admission rep that will answer that first question with anything less than a “good.” Second, I feel like majors sometimes get confused with careers. Sure, there will always be very specific programs for very career-oriented tracks (think Nursing). However, most academic majors are designed to be broad in scope to accommodate a variety of interests. Do you want to work in fashion? Don’t ignore a college because Fashion or Fashion Design is not listed. A degree in art or marketing can certainly get you there. Those internships you do in college can get you there. Unless you have dreamed of a certain career since you were 3 years old, my recommendation is to start broad. Most colleges have Business programs, Psychology programs, and Communication programs for a reason. These programs offer some of the widest scopes for you to learn and discover without getting pigeonholed.
When I was looking at colleges, I fell into the trap of focusing on a specific type of career so much that it drastically limited my choices. At the time, I wanted to run hotels and restaurants, so naturally I thought I had to major in Hospitality & Tourism Management. I was also the 17-year old that changed his mind every three weeks. Instead of realizing that a business or communication degree might be a better fit for my indecisive self, I plowed ahead and found that, along with all of my other qualifications, only 2 colleges showed up. Spoiler alert: I attended neither. The moral of the story? Be open to other options.