Check out any university website and you’re sure to find a virtual tour that invites you to explore the campus without leaving the comfort of your home. While such tours can be helpful for students trying to decide which university to attend, they can’t replace in-person tours, recruiters believe.
“Virtual tours are helpful and social media is great for getting feedback from your peers but I can’t imagine anything replacing a campus visit,” says Doug Huckvale, assistant director of undergraduate recruitment at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“Every university has a different feel and a campus tour will help you decide where you feel most comfortable,” he says. “Students should get a feel for both the campus as well as the city in which it’s located.”
According to surveys Carleton has conducted, campus tours “work both as a factor in changing the decision of someone who wasn’t really considering a school and also to reinforce an already pretty strong decision,” Huckvale says.
Many universities offer special orientation days for high school students and parents but visitors are welcome just about any time. Simply contact the university and schedule a visit through its high school liaison or registrar’s office.
Campus tours typically include academic buildings, such as lecture theatres and smaller classrooms, as well as a residence, cafeteria, student centre and athletic facilities. They can often be program specific and provide opportunities to talk to students and professors. At Carleton, tours take visitors through the heated tunnel system that connects every building on campus.
The busiest times for tours are November (when students are deciding which universities to apply to) and April to May (when students who haven’t already paid a visit are deciding which admission offer to accept).
Queen’s University provides many opportunities for high school students to visit its Kingston campus, including tours during the summer and open houses on fall weekends.
“It’s especially valuable to visit when students are here,” says Stuart Pinchin, associate university registrar – undergraduate admission. Weekday tours will not only give visitors a better understanding of a typical day, they also afford the opportunity to attend a lecture and get a feel for a program.
“Visitors can talk to our students about clubs, student government, sports — whatever their passion — and find out about the opportunities to get involved,” he says.
Make the most of your campus visit with the following tips from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada:
• Try to visit on a regular school day rather than on weekends.
• Don’t just listen to tour guides. Strike up conversations with other students.
• Talk to professors about courses you are interested in.
• Arrive with questions and don’t be afraid to ask them.
• Check out all aspects of the campus, including the library, student services, athletic centre and student lounges, residences and lecture halls.
• In addition to the campus, check out the local neighbourhood and nearby services and attractions.
University bound: Choosing a program