Questions for College Students? How to Connect on a Campus Visit

High schoolers, when you are touring a university, you probably have plenty of questions for college students. It only makes sense. After all, these are the people who can give you unfiltered opinions of what it was like to be an applicant and why they decided this was the school for them. 

However, on a college campus, everyone seems busy with something: running to class, talking with friends, or studying for a test. You may be unsure how to find people who will talk with you. While there is no magic formula, here are five great opportunities you can use to make that connection.

1. Admissions-organized Activities

Some colleges offer visiting high schoolers the chance to meet with current students. Admissions officers will usually not be present for these conversations so that students can speak more freely. 

Expect honest answers to your questions for the college students. Generally, the participants in these programs care a lot about their school. This may lead them to open up about the things they love and the things they would change. Don't be afraid to ask about what you really want to know, like, "What's your least favorite part about the college?" or "What do people do for fun here?" You are likely to get a thorough response and an interesting discussion.

Check with the college to see if any of these opportunities are available to you:

  • Forums: high school students can ask their questions for college students in a casual group setting.
  • Shadowing: the high school student follows a college student through daily activities, such as classes or hanging out in the residence hall. 
  • Lunch conversations: high school students are paired with college students for scheduled meals at the university dining hall.

Each of these activities can help students get to know a school better, make good choices come application time, and prepare effectively for college interviews.

2. Meal Times

Even if there is no formal program for meeting students over lunch, ask the school for permission to visit the dining hall on your own. This is a great place to get answers to your questions for college students. Look for someone who does not seem engrossed in work, glued to a computer, or rushing through the meal because he or she has an exam in fifteen minutes. 

When you find a potential match, introduce yourself as a visiting high school student, and then see if it would be okay for you to sit with them and ask a few questions. Most college students remember what it was like to be an applicant, so they should react positively. 

As we mentioned in a previous article ("Six Underrated Ways to Decide If a College is Right For You") remember that you are talking with someone you don't know well. Use good judgment before revealing personal details about yourself. If you think it's appropriate, ask for that student's email address so that you can write later with follow-up questions.

3. Student Unions

Most colleges have a central gathering area that students use to promote activities, organizations, and events. This makes them perfect for your needs. 

Usually, volunteers take shifts for this promotional work, and there can be a lot of downtime. You may find that these students are very approachable and open to your college admissions questions. Some quick tips:

  • Look for organizations that interest you and that you might join if you attend the school.
  • Introduce yourself when the college student is not busy. 
  • Put your conversation on hold if some comes by to learn about what the student is promoting.

4. College Information Booths

The college information booth helps people find campus resources, and in many cases, it is managed by a current student. See if he or she is open to answering your questions about the college search. The nice thing here is that you get the best of both worlds: a student's perspective on campus issues and a well-informed source for college academics and programs. 

5. University Quads / Residence Hall Common Rooms

On a beautiful spring day, you may find droves of college students on the campus lawn playing sports, studying, or hanging out. 

This can be a good spot for you if you have questions for college students. However, it can be tough to tell from a distance if the group you want to approach is talking about TV from the previous night or if it is busy with an upcoming class assignment. Try introducing yourself and then asking if they have time to talk.

Residence hall common rooms can be good alternatives to the quad on bad-weather days. The drawback is that you may find fewer students there. Also, there may be "quiet rules" in effect to create a protected study space. Look for posted signs about these rules before you start up a conversation.

A Note for Parents about Questions for College Students

Parents, you may wonder whether you should take part in these conversations. On one hand, it is likely you have your own questions for college students: what they think about their studies, their financial packages, and the admissions process.

On the other hand, you are an authority figure. Your presence may affect your student's ability to ask questions openly. It can also impact how honestly a college student answers your child.

Before you visit campus, it's a good idea to talk with your high school student. Explain that you have questions, but provide reassurance that you will give space to him or her. Also, take a look at some of our other college tips for parents. By having an open dialogue about what you and your student want from the experience, you'll know when to step into the background.

Good luck in your talks, and have a great campus visit!

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