As campuses across the country continue to reopen to visitors and prospective students, your questions will likely shift from “Can I finally visit?” to “What should I ask during my visit?”
I certainly remember my own college search and not yet knowing exactly what questions to ask. Here are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind when preparing for a visit to college campuses.
Organize Your Questions
The first step in figuring out which questions to ask is to first discern the most important criteria you are looking for in a university or college.
If, for example, the most important considerations for your college education are the availability of financial aid, a strong undergraduate program in business, and a residential environment, then it probably does not help much if your first question is about meal plans and campus dining. While this may seem obvious, it can be tempting to just ask the first question that pops in your head.
I suggest going in with a thoughtful list of questions that you plan to ask at each university you visit, whether in person or online.
Having a core list of questions will give you a clearer sense of how that university fits into your primary goals and hopes for college. It will also allow you to more directly compare universities on these key criteria, especially if you (like me!) love lists, spreadsheets, or color coding. You will have your own system of organizing your college research, but having a list of criteria that you are diving into at each institution will allow you to more directly compare and contrast, regardless of your method of taking notes.
Do Your Research
Before visiting a campus in person, look at your list of questions and see whether you can find answers to any of them prior to an information session or tour.
It is often as easy as conducting a quick Google search. For example, searching “Notre Dame + test-optional policy” or “Notre Dame + Greek life” will give you quick answers to questions that you will not have to ask in person when you visit.
This will free up time to talk about topics in person that may be harder to find information about online.
In case you’re wondering, Notre Dame continues to be test-optional for the 2023 application cycle, and we do not have Greek fraternities or sororities. And with that, I’ve freed up your list in order to focus on other topics!
There are certainly broad questions that may be important to ask during your college search, such as, “What sets your university apart from other universities of a similar caliber?” or “What do students spend most of their time doing at your university?”
However, the more specific you can make your question, the more helpful it may be. Often, the admissions counselor who is hosting your information session may answer your specific question and then speak more broadly about that topic. This will allow you to get answers about your personal interests or concerns, but also learn more about the community or resources.
The hardest questions for us to answer are ones that are very broad or very vague. This is not because we do not have an answer, but rather that we have too many answers!
As admissions counselors, our job is to talk about Notre Dame all day, every day for much of the year, so we have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips to serve as a resource for you and your family.
Rather than asking, “How’s the psychology major at Notre Dame?,” you could instead ask, “Are there opportunities for psychology majors to conduct research with faculty at Notre Dame?”
By asking a specific question, it is more likely that we will give you the information that you actually care about—in this case, undergraduate research opportunities.
Listen to Others
On your first campus visit or two, it may be intimidating to try to figure out exactly what you are looking for or which questions to ask. By listening to other students’ or families’ questions, you may be inspired to jot down a question that you can then ask at subsequent campus visits.
A silver lining to the difficulty of accessing college campuses in the last two years is the enormous increase in virtual resources available on university websites. Even as campuses reopen, those live and on-demand resources are very likely to remain available for students to conduct research prior to visiting a campus in person.
They can be a tremendous source of knowledge to supplement and prepare for campus tours. Virtual sessions may inspire questions, answer easy questions in advance, and provide additional access to current students and faculty.
Schedule Your Notre Dame Visit
Check out our in-person and virtual visit options or browse our virtual resources. We look forward to welcoming you to our campus!
Emily LaPlaca is an assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the admissions counselor for the Northeast Region and international areas in: Nanjing; Hubei, Chongqing, Shaanxi, and Sichuan provinces; and Mongolia. Learn more about Emily.