Why College Tours Are The Worst


I like to blend into tours on campus and look around inquisitively like I’m a prospective student. Sometimes I even whisper generic comments to parents like, “could you picture your kid here?” or “meal plan seems pretty sweet.”

College tours are the fucking worst. Parents are probably doing the right thing by giving you a taste of campus life, but college tours can be torture for well-dressed, underweight, future college freshmen.

I’m about to break these tours down to their essence. So follow along. And don’t forget your hat.

First let’s start with parents. Mom’s obviously showing up early for the info session, locked and loaded with six different questions, which are actually all the same question just worded slightly differently. “Is this school safe?” a safety-concerned mother will ask. “Do you have the blue-light system?” the same mom will ask again later. “Is campus security… good?” she will ask once again.

Once the tour starts, the embarrassing questions start flowing. “Could my kid get into the business program even if his GPA is slightly below the minimum required?” Or “Do the dorm bathrooms get cleaned regularly? Because my son’s immune system is worse than his GPA.”

But the worst mom question is never directed at the tour guide. When I toured colleges with my cousins two years ago, my Aunt Linda asked almost every student she saw walking around, “Are you happy here?” And she didn’t gradually lead into the big question. She popped up from behind trees and buildings and got right up in their grills. At one point I think she polled a member of our own tour group.

My mom was an interrogator, too. I went on many a college tour in my day, although I wasn’t always mentally there. Fortunately, my mom picked up the slack, asking random passersby about their college experience. One kid almost shed a tear describing how miserable he was. And she still wanted me to go to that college.

Hey and don’t think I’ve forgotten about the dads. Sometimes they get lost in the shuffle and, yes, I mean that very literally. There’s always that one dad out there just following along in the back of the group. Poor guy just wants a slice of pizza from the student union but instead all he gets is historical analysis of the architecture of the graduate student’s engineering building. Real stimulating stuff there, tour guy. Why don’t you write a book about it.

Listen, I’m sure most tour guides have the best of intentions. They’re mostly really enthusiastic students who are probably heavily involved in campus life. But what I can’t understand is when tour guides give information that is utterly useless in deciding if a college is the right fit for a prospective student.

“This stone was actually carved in 1883 by the founder of the university himself, ” an annoying, over-happy tour guide will say. Yeah, is this the kind of school where you party on Thursdays? Am I going to be hazed, wink twice if yes, if I join this certain fraternity? Is the pizza place on campus only good when you’re drunk or could it be a possible Tuesday lunch spot? These are the important questions.

And I’ll give kids the real low-down on campus. I’ll tell you that Boston University’s student union is the prime lunch spot and that freshman dorm Warren Towers is a shithole. I’ll tell you what times you can and cannot go to the gym and I’ll teach you how to not get hit by cars.

But I’ll have no clue who founded the university.