Planning a Campus Visit (Part II)
April 23, 2012
NYT College Life Fair Wrap-up
June 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Campus Tour

Impending finals or summer plans might be on your mind right now; yet, I hope that the last two posts, featuring On-Campus Programs (OCP) staff, made you excited for a spring road trip to college campuses across the country.  Penn tour guides, Nick Boccardi W’14 and Alicia DeMaio C’13, add a new voice to this conversation and a means to put the 4C’s in action.

As a high school student, Nick’s favorite stop on his Penn tour was Locust Walk – Penn’s central pedestrian pathway.  Three years later and current tour guide coordinator, Nick’s favorite stop remains the same.  “One of the best experiences for me is watching prospective students go down Locust Walk and seeing the wonder and awe they feel when they look around…  I was that person.”

Ask yourself if you can you be part of the campus community.  Do you feel comfortable in the University’s physical space?  Can you connect with the people around you?  Do not hesitate to talk to undergrads or accept flyers from student groups to find out…

Alicia enjoys telling tour groups about Penn’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where she currently works.  “I talk about how we have the first Shakespeare portfolio, a book with Isaac Newton’s marginalia, Benjamin Franklin’s papers and items that belong to him.”

Your tour guide has a unique lens – an insider’s scoop, even – into the curricular offerings on campus as well as the resources to support your studies, such as Penn’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  From your guide’s assessments, unpack the strengths of different academic departments.  Then, take the time to cross reference your guide’s observations by talking to other undergrads about academic choices on campus.

“Be open, absorb, look around,” instructs Alicia.  Awareness – of your surroundings, of the tour guide’s presentation – is vital to a successful tour.  Nick adds, “Don’t press tour guides for facts and figures; just try to understand the atmosphere of the campus.”

Recognize that campus culture might be similar to or distinct from that of your high school.  Ask yourself how an institution’s mission can inspire your undergraduate journey.  Know how you can contribute to the work of each institution you visit.

As guides walk between stops on the tour, they have time to address personal inquiries that prospective students might not feel comfortable asking in front of their parents or admissions professionals.  In their answers, Nick assures me, “tour guides try to be genuine and realistic about their experiences.”

How can your tour guides help you form conclusions around your visit?  What questions can you ask to fill in gaps in your understanding?  Also, know that your interaction with undergrads does not stop at the tour’s close – many guides, like Nick and Alicia, are happy to continue the conversation by email.

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