For the past year and a half, I have had the honor and pleasure of being a campus tour guide here at Florida Tech. As a tour guide, one of the first people prospective students and their parents meet, I have engaged with lots of interesting students from all around the globe looking at coming to our wonderful university.
I find there are a few common questions parents and students always ask during a campus tour. With practice, we each develop a pretty good narrative about the benefits of our college and college life. However, while making your college decision you not only want to hear positive things about a college, but what your actual day-to-day life at college will look like. Here are a few things that I highly encourage prospective students to look at for every school they check out.
Of course as a forensic psychology major, I took a different approach to this using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Every prospective student needs to consider the basics first—where they will be eating and sleeping. I highly encourage every student to at least try the food at any school they are seriously considering because at the bare minimum you will most likely be eating it for a full year. Don’t just look at the quality of the food, but also consider the diversity of options you have, and how often the menu changes. Panther Dining Hall here at Florida Tech is on a 6-week rotation and daily specials to prevents student from getting bored with the food.
Figuring out your dorm room situation is also very important. Today’s dorms are rarely the same as what our parents had when they went to college. Today’s universities boast individual bedrooms for freshman, to traditional-style dorms where you share your room with other students and communal style bathrooms. Schools have different policies when it comes to the dorm set-ups and their cleaning regulations. Are you going to be cleaning up after you and your roommates? Are you going to be cleaning up for an entire floor? Or like our traditional-style dorms, will the common areas be professionally cleaned throughout the week?
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the dorms and food, the next question is security (more often something that parents ask about). Does the school have security measures in place for different natural phenomena that may occur? For example, a hurricane evacuation plan, or a tornado shelter if they are common in the region where the school is located. What kind of security measures are implemented on the buildings? Do they use lock and key, card swipe systems or some other variation? How many lights do you see on the campus while you are walking around? If it is a residential campus, does it look like the areas would be well lit at night? If you are really curious, all universities are required to publish a report at the end of every year regarding any and all crimes that may have occurred on the campus. Lastly, do you see security around while you are on your campus tour? Do they seem easily approachable and friendly? When students are comfortable with the food, where they are living and feel safe on campus, it helps develop the next crucial part of any campus and the visit experience—the community.
The Need for Belonging
Be sure to ask about the campus community, school spirit and the students’ relationship with the local community. One of the biggest things I’ve found that relate to student satisfaction is the opportunity to be involved on campus and in the community. Look at what clubs and organizations on the campus. Florida Tech boasts 100+ clubs to choose from my personal favorites being the Florida Tech Surf Club, Greek Life, Orientation Team, and being a Student Ambassador (tour guide). It’s easy to talk to talk, but does the school really have the community they promote? Look around on your campus tour. Do you see students walking around together or huddled up talking to each other? Is your tour guide greeted by various students and staff? Or is everyone walking around with headphones in doing their own thing. Is the school involved with the local community? Or are they an island in a suburban or metropolitan area? Florida Tech does various events for the local community such as Treat or Treat and beach clean-ups with the local community.
At the end of the day the school is going to be your home for the next 4 years, and that community is going to become a second family, so make sure you get that homey feeling. I can honestly say that at Florida Tech you will never just be a face in the crowd. From your first day of orientation, you become a fellow panther.
Does the school offer its students opportunities to develop themselves, building up the esteem and prestige they want? Does a degree from the school have the recognition you are looking for in the field you want to work in? This ties back very closely to the last section. One of the best ways is to look at what developmental programs the school has to offer. Do students win any particular academic or philanthropic awards annually? Our school, for example, offers leadership development programs such as Four Pillars, a multitude of honor societies and opportunities to be involved with cutting-edge research. Some schools have restrictions on when students can get involved with certain projects so make sure to ask how to get involved with the things that will make them the innovators of tomorrow.
Lastly, we have Maslow’s level of self-actualization. Obviously, this is a case-by-case concept. One way you can at least comparatively look into this is where alumni end up and what they are doing. How many graduates have a job before, right after or within 6 months of graduation? How many students go on to get graduate degrees? Do students try and stay at the university or do they go to other schools? Self-actualization is something that each and every students has to decide for themselves what it means, but the right environment will definitely shape what that will look like.
At the end of the day, there are thousands of things that make each and every prospective student and university different. In my experience as a tour guide, those students who find the right community for them go on to become the leaders of the future. There is more than just a prestigious title or accolade that makes a university great. It is the students and its prospective students that decide what makes a university great. As I tell every tour group I take through the library, college is whatever you want it to be, but if you take anything from my tour make sure it is this: ” Your college experience, just like the rest of your life is going to be what you want it to be. Florida Tech was the best decision for me and regardless of where you decide to go whether it be here or anywhere else make sure you make the most of it, you are the one who gets decide how great your experiences are going to be.”