What to Look for on a Campus Visit
What's the typical class size for freshmen? For upperclassmen?
Asking about student:teacher ratio won't really give you the information that you want because it will vary from year to year. Ask about how large the specific freshmen classes are to get the best idea of what your child will experience.
At large universities, many 101 level courses have lecture sections of 100 students or more and small discussion groups where students become better known to those who will grade them. At larger schools, many of the discussion groups are taught by teaching assistants. If the school makes use of graduate or undergraduate students as teaching assistants, find out in what capacity and how often they serve. All schools say their professors are accessible to the students. See if this means just scheduled office hours or home phone numbers and coffee get-togethers.
Does the school provide tutors?
Inquire about the academic support facilities that the school provides, such as a writing center where a student can have a paper looked over before it is submitted. Is there a learning assistance service that provides workshops on study skills and time management? Within the specific college that your child is applying to as a major, there may be tutoring for technical courses which support that major. Is there a fee for such additional help?
Is housing guaranteed all for four years?
At large state universities be sure to inquire about early deadlines to secure freshman housing. Priority housing goes to incoming freshmen who return their contracts on time and to returning students who have had campus housing the previous semester. Transfer students and freshmen who turn in their forms late are likely to receive waiting list status for housing.
If the dorms are co-ed, is it by wing, floor, or every other room?
If your student is living in traditional freshman housing, it is usually by wing. If the floor is co-ed, what about the bathrooms? There is usually one bathroom per wing, one designated for females, the other for males. Yes, some small schools allow the students in a dorm to vote for co-ed bathrooms.
Are there fraternities and sororities?
Learn if there is a system of fraternities and sororities. What percentage of the student body gets involved? Do the Greeks have their own houses? When is rush? It can be as late as sophomore year or as early as a week before freshman classes begin. Are parties open or closed to the rest of the student body? Does the administration plan any major changes in the system in the near future? Can an independent feel comfortable on a campus with a significant percentage of students in fraternities and sororities?
How does he/she feel walking around the campus at night?
All tour guides are prompted to talk about the security issues even before you bring them up. They will point out the personal emergency response telephones on campus which signify the nearest phone patched in to campus security. Ask about escort services provided to ensure that students get safely back to their dorms after a late night of studying at the library or computer center. The campus and the town can only do so much to protect the student. It is their responsibility to take advantage of the resources available to them.