By Devon Haynie
Prospective students shouldn't be afraid to pepper their campus tour guides with personal questions about the college experience.
Experts suggest prospective students ask tour guides about how well a school prepares them for life after college.
Ask most college tour guides, and they'll say it's an all-too-common scene: high school students trailing behind them, mumbling to their parents but too shy to ask their own questions.
"I think that many parents tend to be more vocal, which is kind of detrimental to the student," says Hannah Daughton, a tour guide and rising senior at the University of Rochester. "Some are a little nervous and embarrassed to ask questions, when in reality I won't judge them at all, and I will never see them again. There is really nothing to lose."
Since summer is prime campus visit season, U.S. News asked student tour guides and school officials to weigh in on what they wish prospective students would ask on campus trips. Their feedback? Some questions are stronger than others. But any question is preferable to none.
"The best tours I've given have been the tours where the students are actually engaging in conversation with the leader," says Will Schuneman, a 20-year-old tour guide at Illinois' Dominican University. "Maybe it's the sheer shell shock of being on campus, but students can be tense."
One tip for prospective students is to ask questions not only about college life, but life after college, says Ian Mortimer, vice president for enrollment management at New York's Nazareth College.
"I wish families spent more time thinking about how the graduate is prepared for the real world, rather than just the details of the curriculum," he says. "Everyone since 2008 is touting their institution as being career-relevant, but the definition of that is way too loose."
Students should ask specific questions about what percentage of graduates are employed in their field of choice, he says. Other strong, career-focused questions include, "How much attention can the career services office devote to each student?" and "To what extent does the college or university make writing skills a part of the curriculum?"
Practical questions, such as asking about the hours for the dining halls and libraries, tend to be very popular among students, says Judith Berhannan, dean of admissions at Stony Brook University—SUNY. But in her opinion, students would be better served by asking about how to get involved on campus.
"Being an engaged and active student is one of the key things that will add to their success and satisfaction," she says.