Summer campus visits

Scouting out college early

Tours can help high school students choose

By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

As an upcoming high school senior, 17-year-old Heather Davis knows she has some important choices to make during the next several months.

To help equip herself with the information needed to choose a college, the prospective engineering major is taking time this summer to visit several college campuses, including Mississippi State University.

"I'm looking at a lot of things," the Winston-Salem, N.C., resident said. "I'm looking for a school with modern facilities, like a big, up-to-date library and computers that are on-line. And the people are important. I want them to be friendly. I don't want to go away to college and feel like I am lost in New York City. I want to feel welcome. It's a lot to look for."

And Davis is not alone in her search.

"A lot of high school students tour our campus during the summer months," said Dr. Jimmy Abraham, associate dean of Student Services at MSU. "Some start as early as their sophomore year. I'd argue that the sooner they begin asking questions and compiling information about colleges, the better off they will be."

Getting questions answered

Colleges and universities regularly schedule tours for students interested in learning more about an institution.

"Most students have a lot of questions," said MSU senior Chris Cox, who is responsible for giving tours to potential students as part of his work with the university's Roadrunners program. "They want to know about campus life in general - what there is to do on campus, what housing is like - things like that. And both students and parents have a lot of questions about the academic end of it. They want to know how hard the classes are, how big classes are, how much it is going to cost each semester - things like that."

University officials say all prospective students participate in a tour because it gives them contact with current college students.

"It's a very non-threatening situation," said Mississippi University for Women's Carol Newell, who serves as the adviser for the Student Alumni Ambassadors. "Students have a lot of questions they don't feel comfortable asking a counselor. They probably won't ask that counselor whether they can paint their dorm room any color they like. But they'll ask another student. Tours give a far more accurate view of what campus life is really like."

What to expect

On a typical campus tour, potential students can expect to meet with a guide. Most tours provide an inside look at the academic building, athletic facilities, dormitories and cafeterias.

If a student is particularly interested in a specific club, guides often will allot time for visits to those clubs.

"Some students come in and want to know what the Baptist Student Union is like," Newell said. "We try to answer those questions."

Lunchtime visits often include a complimentary meal in the cafeteria, allowing students to determine the quality and cost of campus meals.

In some cases, classroom visits are also included in a tour. Students with an interest in a particular major are often given time to meet with faculty within that school.

Most schools provide both small group and individual tours, depending on the needs of prospective students.

"The goal is to make them feel as comfortable as possible," Cox said. "We try to convey the friendliness of this school."

Getting comfortable

Above all, university officials say touring a campus is important because it helps students to become more comfortable with the environment that will likely become their home.

"For four years, a university is a student's home," Abraham said. "Parents and students alike are making a heavy investment in this education. Because it's such a big investment, students should be certain they are comfortable not just with the academic life of a school but with the overall environment."

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