It seems like everyone these days is talking about the importance of the campus visit. But what they may not tell you is that just like any other first impression, the campus visit can be a little anticlimactic and sometimes downright awkward.
Even at elite schools, you might encounter a tour guide who is misinformed, unmotivated, or just plain having a bad day. It happens. But before you cross any school off your list, decide whether the negative vibe actually represents the school or is a result of one of these more common—and often forgivable—human errors.
1. The Case of the Faulty GPS
Complaint: You’ve been excited to explore a school’s theater program, so you signed up for a tour hoping to meet a few members of the drama faculty and see the performance spaces firsthand. But there’s a problem: Your tour guide can’t seem to tell you anything about the program and isn’t even sure where certain theater buildings are located. Is this person even a current student?
Verdict: The main factor here is how much information you provided upfront. If you’ve requested a personalized or program-specific tour, then your complaint is definitely valid. But since most college tours consist of more general knowledge, you may want to relax and take in the broad overview. There will be time to discuss finer points later with someone from your department of interest.
Caveat: It’s one thing if your tour guide is inept, but it’s another if the school simply doesn’t have much to offer. Once the visit is over, if you still just can’t picture yourself spending the next four years there, cross it off your list and move on.
2. The Case of the Disgruntled Student
Complaint: Your guide only seems interested in talking about the aspects of campus that pertain to her own experience. She’s made a point to warn you that campus parking is terrible, the cafeteria food made her gain weight, and the student union never shows any good movies. The place seemed pretty nice to you at first, but now you’re starting to wonder if those glossy brochures were just a clever ruse to get you to campus.
Verdict: Clearly this person is dealing with a string of personal mishaps—or a bad case of senior-itis. If your tour group is small, join forces with your fellow visitors to steer the conversation in a more productive direction. If that’s not possible, it might be time to make a stop at the admissions office and let them know that your guide’s disgruntled rants aren’t doing much to recruit you.
Caveat: If you’re hearing complaints of a serious nature—like campus violence or questionable administrative policies—you will definitely want to investigate further before seriously considering attending the school.
3. The Case of the Bad Manners
Complaint: You’re four hours into an all-day campus discovery event, and there doesn’t seem to be a lunch break in sight. Your blood sugar is quickly dropping, and to make matters worse, your student ambassador keeps rushing through the academic portions of the presentation to focus on “more fun” campus events and clubs.
Verdict: In an ideal world, event organizers would never overlook something as basic as regular breaks, but amidst the chaos of planning, greeting students, and galvanizing volunteers, things can get a little hectic. If your orientation is starting to feel more like an initiation, the best thing to do is speak up. Pull a staffer aside and remind them politely that it might be time for a recess. It’s also more than OK to politely interrupt or ask for clarification on certain topics. It’s your major investment, after all!
Caveat: While a simple oversight is forgivable, plain rudeness is not. When a tour guide fails to deliver basic considerations, it may not be cause to write off the school, but it certainly calls for reporting the incident so the admissions department can arrange for a replacement.