A College Student’s Perspective of Campus Tours

To all of you prospective students touring campuses this semester, whether it’s to see if the visit will finalize your decision as to where you want to spend the next 4-ish years of your lives, or for those of you getting an early start for this fall’s upcoming application season, I want to tell you, as a college student, that the tours have a very different effect once you actually get to campus.  

Every time a tour group walks by a location where they can see us, whether it is in the library, in the atrium of the Social Sciences Building, or through the miles of glass walls in the Stem Building, I feel like an exhibit on display in a zoo. The tour guides could essentially be saying “Look at all the sleep-deprived college students in their natural habitat” as prospective students try to glean a glimpse of life while their concerned parents hope for the most nurturing environment that will set their children up for a successful career and life.  

All the tour guides descriptions of our “natural habitats” sound so much more promising and alluring before it becomes a facet of daily life, and one you cannot get away from.  

Those places on campus they make sure to highlight to you are the most visually attractive locations and also some of the places you will probably spend the least amount of time in or around. The places you see on campus tours are the ones that are meant to sell the school to you, rather than a representation of your daily life. Even if you do spend time in the most picturesque areas of campus, you will likely never appreciate them as much as you the first time you set eyes on them.  

All the promises of the many options the campus has to offer you, in terms of classes, professors, clubs and organizations and social events dwindles down to less than nothing when you get here and realize that you have no power to decide your own life because there is only one professor offering a single section of the course that is required for your major and incidentally that professor has a rating of 1.5 on RateMyProfessor. All the options of clubs and organizations for you to make your home diminish under the glaring light that not all of them provide a community and environment that you can make your non-academic passion.

The lack of engagement from current members and the effort it takes to take yourself away from your pile of assignments and comfy bed in order to attend the meetings makes what was once an important enough consideration to pick a school on become an obligation only to be tended to when nothing else is demanding enough for your attention.  

The way the sunlight hits the trees and the buildings look on a good day is not what you will see everyday here. You will see the campus at its worst, in terms of what Mother Nature chooses to clothe it in, and in terms of what the universe has in store for all who make this campus their home. You realize when you get here that what matters most is not how beautiful the campus can be, but rather, how ugly it won’t be on the bad days.  

Those numbers, facts, anecdotes and tidbits of history that all the admissions materials show you and that become representative of the schools fade away to distant memories that have no impact on your time and experience here.  

While this might make it seem as though you cannot believe anything you see and here on campus tours, once you get here, you realize that there is only one thing that will shape your time on campus. That one thing is your attitude and perspective. Whatever school you choose to go to, whether impacted by the college tours you go on or not, your experience will be nothing but the sum of decisions you made and choices you prioritized. Your experience will be nothing but what you make of your time here, and it will be up to you to shape it. You will not be limited by what is offered here or not offered here, but only by the attitude you bring to your life day in and day out and by the opportunities you chase and seek out of your own volition. When you are touring campuses, you might base decisions on the vibes you get and your opinion of the campus, but the vibe of the school you choose will be just the vibe that you match to your surroundings.