Spending time on campus can be an important part of the grad school selection process. But to make it truly worthwhile, there are a number of questions to ask when visiting grad schools. These can touch on a wide range of topics, such as how the listed student to faculty ratio varies from program to program, all the way to how students enjoy campus life. On school tours, your goal is to find out as much information as possible to help find a perfect school for you.
What Types of Questions to Ask on Grad School Visits
When it comes to questions to ask on graduate school visits, there is no limit. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes potential students make is not asking enough questions. If something strikes your interest, ask about it.
There are, of course, some standard questions to ask, like how’s the food. But more importantly, try to pick the brain of your tour guide. More often than not, they are current students who actually enjoy answering various questions and engaging in conversations about the school, rather than just lecturing the whole time. Use this resource to try and get a better understanding for how students feel about the school and what your experience might be like.
One of the key topics to ask about is safety, especially at night and in parking lots. You could also ask about the overall feel of the campus and the student body, such as extracurricular activities and how many students stay on-campus during the weekend. Think of things that only a student might know but keep in mind, this is just one person’s perspective. You’ll want to make your own assessment as well.
Why Are Campus Visits So Important?
Campus visits and school tours are valuable pieces to finding a perfect school for you because it gives you an opportunity to experience the campus for yourself. Reading about a school online will only tell you so much. Your own experiences, feelings, and opinions about a school may be completely different, either for better or worse.
Make sure you walk around campus, even after your tour is over. If you have the time, eat at the cafeteria to try the food and see how students interact with each other. This is, after all, where you’ll be spending time, and maybe live, for at least eight months a year for the next few years. You want to feel as comfortable as possible.
But walking around can only tell you so much. Which is why there are so many questions to ask on grad school visits.
Questions to Ask on Grad School Visits
When you go on graduate school visits, one of the most important things you can do is ask as many questions as possible. Don’t worry about asking stupid questions or how you may look to the others in your tour. If something is important to you, then you should ask the question. More than likely, there are others who are interested in the answer as well.
Take into account that you shouldn’t necessarily ask every person that you meet all of these questions. Some are designed for the tour guide or for other students along your campus tour. Other questions are for faculty and others for administration.
The best approach is to create a list of questions that are most relevant to you. Then, ask them of as many students, faculty, or administrators as possible at each school that you visit. Also, make notes about your initial feelings about the school. Once all of your visits are complete, go back and review the answers to each of the questions and your feelings about each school to narrow your list.
Below are some suggestion questions to ask on grad school visits. These may be a great starting point and way to prepare. Then add any additional questions you can think of that may apply to your unique situation. With these in hand, your journey to finding a perfect grad school may be well on its way.
Suggested Questions to Ask When Visiting Graduate Schools
- Why did you (tour guide) choose this school?
- Are you happy here?
- What are the strengths of this school?
- What’s your biggest complaint?
- What do you wish you knew about this school before you enrolled?
- What’s your most important advice for new students?
- What surprised you about campus life here?
- How’s the food?
- How much freedom do students have in choosing courses?
- Are there certain courses students have to take?
- What are some popular programs?
- What’s the average class size for introductory-level courses?
- What’s the average class size for upper-level courses?
- What’s the student to faculty ratio for my program specifically?
- What percentage of courses are offered online?
- Is there a difference between online courses and on-campus courses?
About the Perks
- What are the best places to study on campus?
- What are the hours for the library?
- Do they change during reading periods or exam weeks?
- Are there computer labs?
- Does the school host other events, such as concerts or comedians?
- Are there discounts for students to these, or other events?
- Are there guest speakers that come to campus?
- Can meal plans be used at any off-campus restaurants?
About Financial Aid
- What is the average financial aid package?
- What is the typical breakdown between loans and grants?
- Are there work-study opportunities available?
- What percentage of students receive scholarships?
- What is the average merit award?
- What percentage of students receive grants?
- How many students are accepted?
- How many students are waitlisted?
- Is there diversity on-campus?
- Are there many students from other states?
- Are there many students from other countries?
- What makes the student body unique?
About School’s Track Record or Performance
- What is your graduation rate?
- What is average graduation time?
- What percentage of first year students return for their second?
- What are some programs the school is known for?
- What’s the reputation of my program?
About Academic Support
- How many of the classes are taught by professors and how many are taught by a teaching assistant?
- Do professors hold office hours?
- How easy is it to meet with professors outside of class?
- What types of tutoring services are offered on campus?
- Do you have a writing center?
- How can students receive academic support?
- What kind of learning disability resources do you have?
About Student Life
- Do many grad students live on-campus?
- What percentage of students live in dorms?
- Are there social orientation groups for new students? Are they enjoyable?
- How accessible and helpful is health services?
- Do sports play an important part on campus?
- What are some of the most popular extracurricular activities?
- Is it easy to get around campus without a car?
- What are some security measures to make the campus safe?
- Do most students stay on-campus or go home for weekends?
- What percentage of students join clubs?
- What’s a typical weekday like for you?
About Outside Opportunities
- Can students study abroad?
- How many students study abroad?
- What are some of the most popular locations?
- Where do students hang out on-campus? What about off-campus?
- Are there movie theaters in town or other places to hang out?
- Are there nearby cafes to study at or get work done?
About Career Services
- Is there career counseling? Is it helpful?
- What kinds of internship opportunities are there? Do many students take advantage of them?
- Does the school host career fairs?
- How easy is it to find summer jobs and other kinds of work through your school?
- How prevalent is the school’s alumni association on-campus?
Questions to Avoid Asking on Grad School Visits
Remember, there are no dumb questions. However, there are inappropriate questions to ask on school visits. Most often this occurs when you are asking the right question, just to the wrong person. Others are simply too personal to ask anyone while they show you around campus.
In addition, the answer to many questions can be answered simply by visiting the school’s website. Typically, this includes anything that is statistics based, such as the average class size or tuition. However, some of these questions are mentioned above with a twist to how those statistics may affect you, such as the average class size in your program or for introductory or upper-level courses.
Some questions to avoid asking on your grad school visits include:
- How much financial aid do you receive?
- What financial aid package am I going to receive?
- What was GRE score?
- What was your undergraduate GPA?
- What classes are most often assigned adjuncts or teaching assistants?
Other inappropriate questions to ask on graduate school visits involve divulging personal information, such as health problems, in front of your group. More often than not, this will make the tour guide and the other members of your tour uncomfortable. If you’re concerned about a specific issue, try to pull your tour guide aside and ask privately. If they can’t answer the question, more than likely they can point you to the person or department who can.
Prepare for Your Grad School Visits
Before you go on your graduate school visits, take the time to prepare. Make sure that this is one of the schools you may want to apply to and that it meets all of your standards. This includes making sure that the school has your desired program or concentration.
More importantly, you’re going to want to dig deeper than the statistics and sales pitches on the school’s website. So, if the website says there are more than 100 extracurricular groups on campus, ask how many students are involved in those groups. The school is trying to sell you on how wonderful the school is. More often than not, they are going to have plenty of bells and whistles and do their best to only show you the highlights.
Take this into account and make sure you try to dig a little deeper. No school is perfect. However, there are plenty of schools that are perfect for you. Your job is to gather as much information as possible and to find a school or schools where you feel comfortable.
Find a Perfect Grad School for You
Remember, your tour guide is only one student and has a unique set of experiences. And the campus visit is only one step in your grad school selection process. That’s why it’s so important to do your own research. And we’re here to help.
To start finding graduate schools you might want to visit, use the menu bars above. Search for graduate programs by topic or location. Then check out our list of suggested schools and click on each link to learn more. You can also contact schools directly with the on page form to get your research process started. Who knows, you may be visiting their campus sooner than you think!