In many ways, the campus can define the college experience. From quaint college towns to sprawling cities, each type of campus has unique benefits to offer students. And once you’re there, it’s important to take full advantage of your opportunity to experience the university in-person.
There is already so much to consider when selecting the right university. Academics, cost, extracurricular activities, and so much more factor into the important decision. All of these elements take place in the backdrop of the campus itself, so don’t disregard this important piece of the college search!
Four types of college campuses
When visiting different schools, it’s a good idea to get a feel for a range of different campus types. You never know which type of setting will inspire your student until you check it out, right?
(It's also a good idea to make sure you're added to each college's email list.)
First things first, here’s a rundown of the four types of college campuses and the considerations of each.
Urban college campus
University life in a city can be as enriching as it is full of exciting opportunities. That’s what draws students to colleges like Columbia, Vanderbilt, and University of Massachusetts. From internships to close connections to the arts and other thriving communities, an urban college campus can provide students with opportunities that could be more difficult to find elsewhere.
Naturally, with bigger populations and city settings come safety considerations. It can be a fine line between enrichment and distraction, especially in a bustling city! Talk with your student, do your research, and ask lots of questions on a college tour about how to manage these considerations.
Suburban college campus
Close to a city or town, but seemingly in a world of their own, suburban campuses can offer the best of both worlds. University of Connecticut, College of William and Mary, and Princeton University offer close-knit on campus experiences with the benefits of a city within reach. Often, suburban colleges offer easy transportation and commutes to cities for jobs, internships, and everything else.
Town college campus
College towns often have a charm all their own and are particularly well-suited to young people. Colleges like UC Berkeley, University of Virginia, Northwestern, and CU Boulder are well-known for their vibrant communities that surround them. College towns often attract the arts and diversity, and if relations between the town and the university are positive, the whole community can rally behind sporting events and other college-sponsored events.
Rural college campus
Not only are they some of the most beautiful campuses in the country, rural colleges offer unique experiences. They can offer tons of school spirit, great athletics, and a community that thrives in and of itself. Students at Colgate University, Ohio University, Wellesley College, and Dartmouth University often say they feel closer ties to their fellow students and on-campus life can be all the richer. Plus, rural colleges can be more affordable and offer a peaceful environment in which students can really focus.
Does visiting a college help admission chances?
Imagine showing up to a job interview where both you and the interviewer know that you haven’t done due diligence beforehand in studying the company, its vision, or culture? Things could get pretty awkward, right?
But terrible dialogue aside, the ultimate penalty is you presenting yourself in a negative light and not getting a job offer, and having you both feel like the whole exercise was a colossal waste of time.
Now, think about your teen and their college search experience. They say they want to go to a big university here and an outstanding college there, but are they putting in the work to make it a reality, or is it just lip service?
A recent study suggests that visiting a college can in fact boost teens’ admissions chances. If it’s doable for your family, it’s a great idea to visit both to get a sense of what student life is really like at a university and to show your student’s interest in attending.
Before you visit, research the ways your teen can make the most of their time there. Simply showing up won’t be enough. So, talk with your teen about how they can maximize their time on campus.
By interviewing with an alum or professor, taking notes that will help customize their application later, and/or crafting a thoughtful list of questions for the college tour guide, they can make a great impression and get vital information at the same time.
30 questions to ask on a college tour
When you step onto a college campus, there is so much to take in! As you get a sense for which type of college will align with your student’s needs, it helps to have the right questions ready to go.
After all, the perfect fit will depend not only on how college visits go, but also on what your student’s goals are. While touring the campus, make sure to ask questions tailored to what your child hopes to get out of their time at college.
Those questions will vary: pick and choose from this list in order to participate intentionally in the tour. Each of these questions is geared towards learning more about life at college and in the surrounding community. Remember: the goal is to get relevant, helpful information that you might not be able to find online!
- What is your favorite thing about going to college here?
- If you could change one thing about this college, what would it be?
- Do you recommend the meal plan? Why/why not?
- What is one thing you wish you knew about this college before your first year?
- What are some of the most popular on-campus events?
- What are athletics like here?
- Which libraries and other campus spaces are best for studying?
- What are some of the best things about (college location)? Some considerations to bear in mind?
- Which campus organizations are most popular?
- What is the best way to find an on-campus job or internship?
- How can students get involved with community service organizations on campus and in the community?
- What’s the best way to get around campus?
- What are some safety tips and resources all students should be aware of?
- What are some of the most fun off-campus restaurants, activities, and local attractions?
- Do any companies or organizations host recruiting events on campus? Are there any local events to be aware of?
- What is the average class size?
- What are some of the most popular majors here? Why do you think that is?
- What are some of the most fun university traditions and special events?
- Are all students required to live on campus? How would you describe life in the residence halls?
- What are some of the best ways to get involved in the community surrounding the campus?
- When can I connect with and ask questions of an academic advisor or career counselor?
- What would you say are some unique benefits of going to college in a city/town/rural location?
- Do upperclassmen typically live on or off campus?
- Which parts of the town/city are most student-friendly?
- What makes this college stand out from comparable institutions?
- What are some great first-year classes for students of all majors?
- Where can I find a writing center or peer tutoring resources?
- Are most classes seminar or lecture style? Does this vary by major?
- How is student housing organized? (By year, Greek life, residential colleges, etc.)
- Can you tell me more about (club of your student’s choice)?
Happy college touring!
You and your student are embarking on such an exciting journey. Here are a few resources to help you along the way: