I am sharing an email that I received this week from a dad who had just completed a college trip with his daughter and had some helpful suggestions for schools on how to operate better college tours. At the end of his suggestions, you will see which state university that the family visited. Lynn O’Shaughnessy
I hope you will be willing to indulge me on this, but you seem to have a way of getting information about the college process out, so in the hopes and spirit of constructive exchange, I’d like to pass along some thoughts to college admission offices that might help the process.
An open letter to college admission offices,
Today we completed another multi-day trip to visit a large, well known university for an admissions tour. Your campus was beautiful, the buildings impressive, the campus legends cute. But you missed a golden opportunity to close the sale because you did not know your product.
In talking to my daughter on the way home, what she most stood out to her was what you did not mention and the questions you could not answer. This led us to discuss what a tour should be like to better help prospective students.
a. Dress like you are representing the school in a professional manner. This doesn’t mean suit & tie but a polo shirt in school colors and khaki shorts/slacks/skirt means more than a T-shirt and cut offs. And wear a name tag.
b. Don’t walk off and leave the tour group wondering where you are or struggling to catch up. You may have walked this path a hundred times, but we are trying to observe as we go, and some older parents cannot keep up.
As an example our group left the admin building and looked for our guides only to find them across the street and leaving us behind before some folks had even gotten out the door.
c. Be able to talk and discuss with us as you walk. Practice walking backward and talking to the group as you go. Long dead periods as we race across campus are killers.
d. Know the critical information about campus. Not just the useless trivia about campus legends and cute folklore, but tell us about the academics. Ultimately that’s why people go to college – to learn.
We don’t expect you to know every class or major, but you should have a good idea of core curriculum everyone takes. If your university has access to one of a kind facilities, mention that. Heck, show us if you can. Most people will be impressed by a particle accelerator, even if they don’t understand it.
e. Show us some academic buildings from the inside so we can see where classes happen. Tour the library. And don’t forget the dining hall. Let us understand what the meals are and what the meal plans are. These things are important to parents who pay the bills.
f. And finally, make that potential student feel welcome, like you can’t wait for her to be a fellow student. Friendliness and openness does incredible things.
Why Does This Matter
I’m passing these along because college visits take time and are costly. This trip was a three day round trip, with gas, hotel bills, and eating out. As parents, we need to ensure these trips are worth the cost in terms of information gained. Thank you Lynn for taking the time to understand and pass along.
In this case the latest university we visited was Indiana. My daughter still plans to apply, but mainly due to information we have researched on line.
In many ways she was better informed on the academics than the guides were.
During the drive home she contrasted it with the tours at other schools we’ve visited and Clemson has become the standard she compares against. At Clemson, for example, she noticed how welcoming everyone was when we arrived on campus – everyone we met that day made her feel like they wanted her to join them, from the lady who checked her in to the students who served her ice cream at the snack bar.
Our tour guide at Clemson took time to speak personally to everyone on the tour while walking between buildings and made sure to point out the related academic buildings for majors people were interested in. She was able to talk knowledgeably about everything from academics to dining to recreation to campus safety.
I’m sorry this has grown so long, but my primary reason for trying to pass this along is not to complain, but improve the process at all schools.
There are thousands of students and parents spending hundreds of dollars for each college visit they make. Some of my daughter’s friends are even flying across country to check out certain colleges. When parents and students are spending that kind of time and money, colleges need to maximize the value out of those two or three hours the student is on campus.