ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled College is saved to My Colleges.

Get Advice & Insights

Articles / Campus Life / Tour de Campus

May 3, 2020

Tour de Campus

I’ve been following the Tour de France the past couple of weeks and have been reminded of the seemingly odd connection between that great sporting event and a critical component of the college process — college visits and their associated tours. Thus, “Tour de Campus.”

The modern version of the Tour de France comprises 21 stages, run on separate days, over 23 days (two days are for rest) and covers over two-thousand miles. For those of you who are considering applying to a long list of colleges, your tour schedule may seem just as daunting as the Tour’s.

I’ve been on a number of college tours and have offered opinions to college applicants about their reaction to tours. It always amazes me how an unusual tour experience, either good or bad, can affect a potential applicant’s view of a particular college.


There are a couple older, still active threads on the College Confidential discussion forum that speak to these issues quite dramatically. The first in entitled Moments that make you scratch your head during tours. This thread began in July of 2013 and the original poster wrote this:

I’ve looked at the Parent Faux Pas thread about moving in but do any of you have these silly stories about taking college tours. I will start

Once at an open house a parent said, “My S is very mature for his age and I’m worrying about how he will fit in with the other, less mature students. How do you suggest approaching this?”

and another,

“What do you mean the buildings aren’t single sex?”

and another,

“Look, that’s the honors building that’ll be the only place you’ll want to hang out.”

and finally,

“Sweetie, the tour guide is hot you should go make friends.”

do you guys have any moments that made you scratch your head to share?

Now, two years and 277 (and counting) posts later, the anecdotes keep pouring in. I’ll highlight a few in a moment.

The second thread, Stupidest reason child won’t look at a college, goes way back to the spring of 2009, and just keeps pumping out posts, of which there are 1,251 (!) so far. Tours play a part in these citations of alleged stupidity. I’ll entertain you with a few highlights from this collection, too, where the thread originator says:

Had to share this one. Mentioned to son that he might want to check out University of Minnesota for biomedical engineering because there seem to be a lot of biomed companies located in that area, and would probably be good in obtaining internships, coops.

Son replied that he would not look at Minnesota because he does not like the Vikings because they prevented the Saints from making the playoffs one year.

I was dumbfounded. Boys!

Not even going to bring up any New England school because he absolutely hates the Patriots!

This coming from my non sports loving son who refuses to even visit a school because “sports are too big there.”

Again, BOYS!

At least Marquette is safe. We love the Packers!

What do these threads imply? Well, first of all, they reveal how shallow some high school seniors (and juniors) can be about their plans for higher education. We can also see the effects of a lack of research into the specifics about a school’s offerings.

If you are about to undertake the Tour de Campus, please try to be prepared and objective. Don’t let momentary, inconsequential, or deep-rooted prejudices sidetrack your evaluation of how a college can meet your educational and career-plan needs.

For example, consider these comments from the “tour moments” thread:

– … reminds me of a tour when the guide had what we call (not sure what others call) a “messy pony tail”. Hair just pulled up, but sort of scrambled beyond that. My D on the tour also had… a messy pony tail (always does, can’t really be bothered with how it looks, just wants it out of her eyes). That is when I knew this might be the school for D, and it turned out that it was. So while some might scratch their heads, for others it is a sign.  

– My favorite tour was the one we took in Ann Arbor. I really wanted our D to go there. We had lunch at an admitted students gathering along with current students. Our D asked the student she was sitting next to what I thought was a silly question – “Would you choose to attend U of M again if you knew then what you know now?” But the student answered “No, probably not.”

Whoa, that shot that university. Oh well.  

– My friend decided not to go to a college because the campus seemed dead. She toured the school at 9AM on a Saturday morning. I don’t know what she expected.

– One thing that drew me to my school is that people DID socialize, all the time! I remember being on tour and having other students say hi to the tour guides, which is awesome. At my job they tell us to take advantage of it, because parents and students do notice the environment. During open house when I assisted at tours, (I stood somewhere in the middle) and the parent I was talking to kept saying that we all seemed so friendly- and my answer was “I know you think that I’m supposed to say this but I really do love it here and it’s because of the people that I’ve met. My part here is volunteer so I’m here bc I want to be.

– … my daughter toured Georgetown and said she loved the place in absolutely every way except she couldn’t get past the fact that so many of the buildings smelled a bit musty to her—and to imagine living and taking classes for years in a place that smelled a bit off wasn’t something she could imagine doing. There are worse reasons, I suppose.  

– I remember every tour I took, very many years ago, there would be kids yelling “Don’t come here! Get out while you still can!” I told my daughter that and at about half our tours, there were kids saying basically the same thing. lol  

– Re: “The most notable experiences were at one Ivy league school where seemingly for the entire student led information session she repeatedly commented about how unlikely it was that an applicant would be admitted there.”

Penn? That seemed to be pretty much the entire content of the info session when we were there.


Now, regarding stupid reasons not to attend a particular college:

– … My son refused to even consider one school because the name rhymed with his name. Seriously.  

– My niece ruled out Princeton solely on the basis that she disliked the tour guide’s shoes.  

– Son refused to visit/consider a school that is named after a toothpaste. 

– My son did not consider a school in Pittsburgh because he is a diehard Ravens fan and cannot stand the Steelers. The youngest one said the same, but he is a diehard Washington Capitals fan.

– My young cousin wouldn’t apply to Georgetown because the weather in DC means frizzy hair for most of the year. Preferred low humidity places. …

– My D wouldn’t apply to a school cause the tour guide wore high heeled sandals and a sundress. She figured if it was that important to look like that even while doing a tour walking backwards then the school wasn’t for her.  

– I refused to apply to any school in any state that didn’t have a professional sports team.  

– D wouldn’t consider Vanderbilt because she heard somewhere that the women dress up and wear make-up to class.

– I didn’t want to apply to any schools that have plaid as their school color. …

– My daughter rejected Wright State University (after being accepted) because one of her least favorite high school teachers graduated from there.  

– My D refused to even think about George Washington after going to a camp there and seeing “scary black squirrels” only brown ones here in NC!  


On that horrifying note, then, I’ll pause the fun here and encourage you to visit both of these threads for much more levity and insights. If you have a comment to complement those I’ve excerpted above, please use the comments section below to enlighten us.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

A-Z College Forums

Browse the College Forums

Find Your Best Fit

Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.