Tips for a Successful College Tour (2 of 2)

Dear Students and Parents,

In Part 1 of the Tips for a Successful College Tour, I offered the following tips when visiting college campuses:

  1. Attend an information session when you visit a campus
  2. Take a housing tour if one is offered
  3. Pick a tour guide who has similar academic interests, if you have a choice
  4. Arrive early for your tour to give extra time for unexpected delays
  5. Be sure to register ahead of time for campus tours
  6. Wear comforable walking shoes
  7. Investigate the surrounding areas including apartments and off campus housing since most students only live in the dorms one or two years.

Here is Part II of the Tips: We started the third day of our adventure with a drive south to Los Angeles and a tour of UCLA. We arrived early, which again gave us the opportunity to check out the dorms and talk informally with a few students. One student offered to help us when he saw we were looking with confusion at a campus map. We talked with him for a while, and he offered his opinion on various aspects of life on the UCLA campus. The best way to learn about a college and gain valuable information is to talk with current students about their experiences (Tip #8).

Our UCLA campus tour was two hours long and included admissions information as well as an extensive tour of campus facilities. Our guide had an amazing amount of stamina and we were impressed with her ability to talk and walk backwards for such a long time! She was typical of UCLA students who are dedicated academics and also involved in many extracurricular activities. In her case, this included conducting research, leadership positions in a sorority and school government, dance team, club sports, positions as a Resident Assistant in the dorm and a campus tour guide, just to name a few. She had so much energy, we wondered if she ever had time to sleep!

College Tour

The tour was comprehensive and our guide told many stories and funny anecdotes which helped to keep visitors attentive and interested. For instance, we learned the history of the USC and UCLA rivalry and a description of the many pranks pulled by each respective school. After passing yet another building under construction, our guide informed us that according to students, UCLA stands for “Under Construction Like Always.”

UCLA‘s strength is its size, offering renowned undergraduate programs in every principle academic field (some 130 undergraduate majors in 109 academic departments with 5,000 courses taught by 4,000 faculty.) Besides academic excellence, there are many other reasons to consider UCLA including undergraduate research, Honors Collegium, athletics, 1000 student organizations, the beautiful campus and three years of guaranteed housing. Consequently, UCLA receives more freshman applications than any other school in the country and admission is highly selective. If you are interested in a large, vibrant, diverse campus, then this might just be the school for you.

My daughter’s friend had told her about a bakery called Diddy Riese Cookies in Westwood Village, and since we were in need of a snack, we headed there after our tour. For $1.50, you can build your own ice cream sandwich by choosing any combination of two freshly baked cookies and one flavor of ice cream. What a gastronomic delight! If you visit UCLA, you must be sure to make a stop at Diddy Riese (Tip #9):

As a contrast to a large scale university, we also wanted to visit a small, private college so we headed further south to Orange County to tour Chapman University the following day. Chapman is located in the City of Orange, known as a “major city with small town ambiance.” With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 4,400 students, Chapman promises direct faculty interaction and an innovative, integrative General Education Program.

Our tour guide was another enthusiastic, active student who shared his experiences participating in clubs and student organizations, Greek Life, and a travel abroad program. After having been accepted to many other colleges, including UCLA, UC Berkeley, Claremont McKenna, and others, he said he chose Chapman due in part to the very generous financial aid package offered. He seemed to be thriving in an environment where he had many opportunities for leadership and the interdisciplinary freedom to select and combine majors. He also had positive things to say about the quality of food on campus and the spacious dorm rooms. In fact, our group was able to see a dorm room and we agreed that although it housed three students, it seemed quite roomy and nice.

College Tour

Unfortunately, the students were also on Spring Break, so the campus lacked the lively, bustling atmosphere that we had seen at other schools. It felt very quiet and it was difficult to get a sense of the activity or energy level without students present. With this in mind, Tip #10 is: try to visit a campus when school is in session.

Our next stop that day (and last campus visit) was at UC Irvine. Reservations are not required for tours at UCI, and fortunately we arrived just as several were beginning. Unfortunately, my daughter was very tired and had had her fill of scheduled tours. She wanted to walk around the campus a bit and visit the bookstore (something we had done at every school,) but had little desire to listen to another presentation. We all thought the campus was beautiful and the facilities looked great, but that’s about all the information I can share. We had visited five colleges in four days and that was enough for this trip! My last tip is this: don’t try to pack in too many tours in a short amount of time. You’ll become saturated and the information will start to blend together.

There are a few more things I’d like to mention. First of all, Los Angeles traffic is a nightmare and it took us close to ten hours to travel from Irvine back to the Bay Area. This is something you must keep in mind if you plan to attend a college in Southern California. It should not necessarily detour you but you should be aware that you’ll need some patience while driving to and from school.

Also, I want to mention that there are many excellent colleges and there is a good fit for every type of student. Visiting a variety schools is an excellent way to get a feel for the type of environment you’re looking for and to evaluate factors such as size, location, weather, academics, housing, sports, and activities. There is no “perfect” college, and every school will have positive and negative aspects. Ultimately, most students find they are happy with their choice because in reality the experience is “what you make of it.” If you make an effort to get involved in campus life, meet a variety of people, participate in activities that you enjoy, and study something you are passionate about, your college experience is bound to be a fulfilling and successful one.

Staff writers

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