Mark Montgomery, expert college admissions advisor and educational consultant, gives some good advice on touring universities from the beautiful campus of the University of Washington. At large colleges, the tours are more rigid and scripted. At smaller institutions, such as the nearby University of Puget Sound, tours tend to be more flexible and personalized. Either way, you should give some thought to what you want to learn before you come.
So today I’m on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. Beautiful, comprehensive university, 29,000 undergraduates, fantastically beautiful campus, trees. Of course it’s January, so they’re not in bloom, but I’m sure in the springtime it’s absolutely gorgeous here. I want to talk a minute about taking tours at large schools versus small schools. Yesterday, I was at the University of Puget Sound, which has about 2,300 students, and here there are 29,000 students. And it’s such a different experience going on a tour here.
There are probably 30 or 40 people on the tour today. And it is very scripted. The tour guide was terrific; she was very, very personable and very well, very knowledgeable about the school. But it was clear that we had a series of stops. And every place she would talk about specific things. So in one place, in fact it was just right over here, she was talking about academics, and she talked about majors. And then in other places, she pointed out housing options and dining options. And then the next stop was something about student clubs, and how to participate in student life here.
The contrast was that yesterday when we visited the University of Puget Sound, really there were only two of us on the tour, and there were two tour guides, and it was very, very, very, very personal. So the two student tour guides really wanted to know about us and what we were interested in learning about, and then they kind of tailored the tour to whatever we wanted to do. And there were a couple of places that we passed by a building, and it looked kind of interesting, so we just went in, right? We didn’t have to take the whole thing. We didn’t have 40 people on the tour.
There is really no way that your individual interest can dictate what you’re going to learn on the tour. You’re going to learn what the tour guide has been told to tell you, and at this particular stop, at this particular place, and about these particular topics. Again, not really one is better than the other, but it helps to highlight how important it is that no matter what kind of school you go to, that the tour is only a small part of what you can and should learn about the university that you want to attend. So if there are things you want to know about the campus that are not on the tour, then it’s your responsibility to learn that, to find out if there are other resources on campus, other people, other offices that you need to visit, or if you need to be looking more on the web for certain kinds of details or things that you want to know about the opportunities that you are looking for.
The tour is helpful, but it is certainly not the only thing you should do when you’re on a campus. And that is very true, probably the most true, on these large campuses where the tours are very scripted, very rigid, and perhaps less helpful because they’re just, they can’t be very personal. It’s the law of numbers. So again, think about what it is you want to learn about the campus before you even come, so that you can have the most productive visit possible.