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How to Take a Campus Tour

Every summer, our parking lots runneth over with families arriving from all over the country. This is no average summer road trip. They are packing up the car and charging the iPhones on a quest to find out a little bit more about the colleges and universities that interest them (or their parents).

To all of you who are planning trips this summer, we welcome you. We are eager to share the nuances of our respective schools. We know you have a lot of information at your fingertips with pamphlets and websites – maybe you’re even following your favorite schools on Instagram – but nothing can take the place of the all-important campus visit. Often, a two-hour experience on campus can make or break the decision to apply.

As the recent adviser for the Wake Forest University Ambassadors-in-Admissions, I’m lucky to have had a lot of interaction with our current students as well as prospective ones. We have over 100 volunteer tour guides who go through an interview process and an entire semester of training to be able to show you around Wake Forest University. Over the years, they have shared stories with me of their best and worst tour moments (including a gem, which we’ve nicknamed “Snakes on a Tour”), prompting us to delve into the topic of “Do’s and Don’ts” for visitors.

What makes a great tour? What can ruin it for everyone? We want to share some of the highlights as you prepare to visit campuses across the country.

Parents, take note. A lot of their advice is directed to you!

Do’s

  • Ask questions! Our guides are all great conversationalists, but a one-sided conversation is never quite as fun. As one guide commented, “I’d rather get asked about my favorite baseball team than get no questions at all.”
  • Can’t think of one? Ask why the tour guide chose that school. This was the most popular piece of advice. Ideally, it is the only “I don’t know”-proof question. If a student says they don’t know why they picked the school they attend…I’d take it as a bad sign.
  • Overwhelmingly, our guides want you stick around after the tour. Hungry? Don’t wait until you’re back on the road; try the food in the dining halls. You didn’t see the gym on the tour? Ask your guide to show you where it is. You didn’t see the Scales Fine Arts Center? Go check it out. People-watch! Can you see yourself here?
  • “Focus on how a school feelsrather than sheer numbers.  “Whatever college you attend, how the campus feels and the vibe the student body/buildings/teachers give off are far more important than petty rankings or other statistics. As a college student, numbers will fade, but how you feel walking around your campus remains as long as you are there.” – Andrew
  • Let the prospective students ask the questions! Believe it or not, we hear more from parents than students on tours. While guides will do their best to answer everyone’s questions, they like hearing from the students who could be their classmates in the coming years.
  • Be okay with the answer “I don’t know.” If a tour guide doesn’t know the answer to one of your questions, it is likely they know who will and can point you in the right direction.
  • Pay attention to the fit! It is something you will hear a lot of in the coming years, but it can be a hard thing to define. “I always end my tours with the most helpful piece of advice I received when I was deciding between certain colleges. I did all of these online quizzes, ‘Where’s your perfect college?’ and ‘Which college is the perfect fit for you?’  In these quizzes, they asked me if I preferred rural to urban communities, or over 50,000 students to less than 5,000. At the time, I had no idea the answer to these questions. But the most helpful token I would like to pass along is to take what you love about high school and mirror that love in your college experience. It may only be one or two particular things you appreciate, but they will still be important to you in a few years. Because despite the fact that you will change immensely over the next two years as you enter and adjust to college, the things that are important now, you will still value them in the future.”- Megan

Don’ts

  • Please don’t give your (or your student’s) statistics to a student tour guide and ask what your chances are of getting in to that institution. Sure, they can give you median GPA ranges and the percent of students who were in the top 10% of their class, but they’re not privy to the decision process. While they’re not voting members of an admissions committee, they know it is holistic, and there’s no such thing as a shoe-in on numbers alone, so it is a nearly impossible question for a student guide to answer.
  • Don’t ask how they are financing their college education. It’s a very personal question and not one that everyone is comfortable with answering in front of a crowd of strangers. A good rule of thumb for any sensitive topic? If you wouldn’t feel comfortable answering the question or you wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone asking your son or daughter that question, don’t ask it.
  • Please don’t hog the tour guide. If you have developed an extensive list of questions, try to ask them at the end of the tour. “As a tour guide, it’s much easier to deal with people who have a lot of questions after the group has dispersed than to deal with somebody constantly haranguing you as you’re trying to convey information that the rest of the group probably wants to hear anyway. In this regard, it’s actually kind of funny to see other visitors’ reactions to the aggressive questioner.” – Justin
  • There are visitors out there who love to play “gotcha” with tour guides. If you have tough questions to ask, again, please wait until the end of the tour. If a student guide doesn’t know the answer, or if you are not satisfied with their take on the topic, by all means ask someone in the admissions office.
  • Don’t wear high heels on a college tour! Going along with this, check the weather. Many schools, including Wake Forest, will keep extra umbrellas around, but it is always a good idea to plan ahead.
  • Don’t wear clothing representing another school, especially one of our rivals! I feel like this is a no-brainer, and yet, people do it all the time”- Amanda. Parents, it’s okay to be proud of your alma mater; just keep in mind our students are proud of theirs as well, and we’d hate to do battle in the middle of the library.
  • Speaking of alma maters, alumni parents, please do not “hijack” the tour. We understand that you’re giddy at the idea of having your son or daughter follow in your footsteps, but a university is a living, breathing thing. Schools are constantly changing in many exciting ways, while striving to keep the principles and ideals of the institution intact. The student giving the tour is just as much a part of the university as you were as a student, and their time and experience, just as valuable.
  • Don’t forget your guide is a student at the school you’re visiting. Odds are, if they’re willing to go through all of the training and spend time showing you around, they love it there. What may seem foreign or unnecessary to you could be their favorite thing about the university.
  • “While AP credit from high school does apply to a lot of people, it’s not a good idea to refer to it in terms of ‘getting out of unnecessary classes.’ We offer very good classes here, and the students/parents should be thinking about furthering their education, rather than trying to skip out on something that could have really benefited them.” –Allison
  • If it seems quiet on campus, keep in mind they are students first. Often, both classes and tours start on the hour, and a vibrant active campus can seem a little less so at 10 am.  “We aren’t hiding from tours. People are just busy, or in class, or napping, or eating, or are in the library.” – Sarah.
  • Don’t get intimidated by the superhuman tour guide who seems to be involved in every club and honor society available. “I know when I was touring, one guide seemed to do everything, and I started to doubt my ability not only to be admitted to but also succeed at that institution. It put momentary doubt in my mind. It’s easy to fall into that trap of insecurity while that tour guide is clearly a wonderful model for the institution”- Vini.
  • Don’t ask students and/or faculty and staff members to pose for pictures; if you do, at least refrain from orchestrating photo shoots. Recently, a mother asked a member of our dining staff to put specific ingredients together, as if he were preparing them, and dictated how to hold the spatula so she could get the best picture. Her son looked mortified, and it slowed the tour down.
  • Don’t ask a student to compare two schools. While that might be the decision you’re facing, it can be difficult for a student to draw conclusions about a school they know nothing about because it wasn’t in the running for their college search.
  • Don’t be rude! Common courtesies apply on campus tours. Please don’t talk on your cell phone for the duration of the tour (or the information session for that matter!).

Above all, do have a good time with the tours. There are lots of schools out there, and it’s likely there is more than one school where you can be happy. Get excited about this next chapter of life!

And as for “Snakes on a Tour”? A long story short, but don’t cross a school off of your list just because a black snake comes out of the woods. They’re commonly found in most states, and, as we all recently learned, they’re harmless! If it’s a deal-breaker, then take it as a sign you might be better suited to an urban campus…

Jennie Harris ‘06

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Categories: Admissions

Yellow Ribbon Program

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved Wake Forest University to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, beginning with the Fall 2019 semester for undergraduate students. For each academic year, eligible undergraduates may receive up to $5,000 of Yellow Ribbon Program funding from the V.A. and up to $5,000 of Yellow Ribbon Match funding from Wake Forest.

We look forward to working with eligible families to let them know more about this benefit and our Wake Forest community!

Sincerely,
Arron Marlowe-Rogers
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
Wake Forest University

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Categories: Admissions

In Full (Inter)View

Ten years ago when we at Wake Forest were discussing becoming test optional in our admissions process, we agreed that, alongside academic records and recommendations, personal interviews and creative short-answer questions could provide useful insight about our prospective students. And it’s our interview that has generated the most questions from students:

Why do you do it? What are you looking for? What do you ask? How should I prepare?

Plain and simple: we interview because we want to know as much about you as possible in the admissions process.

And not just what’s on your transcript or your recommendation letters or the essay that may have had some editorial suggestions from Mom or your English teacher.

Wake Forest is a face-to-face place, and, despite our world of social media, there’s a lot of meaning and value in a face-to-face conversation. We’re eager to speak with you, and we understand and appreciate the effort it takes on your part to make that happen.

Wake Forest is a place that values intellectual curiosity, character, community, inclusion, and open-mindedness, and somehow in the course of every interview conversation we’re going to explore that. And sometimes you might not even realize we’re doing it. The conversation may meander, and we won’t ask you the same questions that we asked your neighbor who interviewed last week, but we will likely get lots of the same information.

It will be in part a conversation about academics, asking you what makes you intellectually curious. We want to hear from students who can carry a conversation speaking about their intellectual interests, about their education – but also their self-education!

Are we going to discuss with you imagery in Moby-Dick or South African politics? Maybe – if you bring it up. Are we going to ask you questions about your high school and your classes, your academic interests, your most treasured books, your talents, your service work, what you think about and what you do when you aren’t studying? Absolutely. So be prepared to expand on your passions, both academic and beyond.

These are turbulent times in America and in the world: our campus community knows that, and those who are applying to join it should know it too. We see creativity and compassion in our students and a desire to solve problems, not just take up space. We are going to explore that in our interviews.

What if I’m shy or awkward, or what if this is my first interview or sometimes I have a hard time articulating what I want to say? At Wake Forest, you are interviewed not by alumni volunteers or students but by admissions officers who read applications and visit schools and spend their careers with high-school students. We know. We’ll meet you where you are. If you want to be a student at Wake Forest and are willing to talk and listen, we’re going to make your interview a good and informative experience for both of us.

So before you interview – whether in person or via Skype (we don’t show preference for one or the other) – think of things you want to make sure we know about you. This is your chance. Think about what you are most proud of, most energized by, most concerned about, most looking forward to about the future. Try to work those things into your interview responses.

We always end our interviews with, “What have we forgotten to ask you that you need to tell me?”

And happily, the response is usually, “Not a thing. You got it.”

Martha Blevins Allman
Dean of Admissions

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Categories: Admissions

The Wake Forest Mini-Camp College Program

The process of applying to college can be dizzying. It’s a conversation that comes up often when I speak with parents.

But it makes sense: even for one school, students can choose from two or three different applications to submit – and then, for each application, multiple deadlines to be sure to meet.

Then, there’s the financial-aid process, which includes both government-issued and institution-specific forms, and a series of deadlines to meet for that process too.

Balancing all of this while searching for the school that fills and fits a student best – intellectually, emotionally, socially, professionally – can be intimidating!

And so, the Office of Admissions at Wake Forest University will be sponsoring a program this Thursday, June 13, to help students better understand and navigate the college-admissions process.

In collaboration with The Southern Association for College Admissions Counseling (SACAC), Wake Forest will be hosting a day-long Mini-Camp College program, which will give students the space to think intentionally about the college-admissions process:

from the nuts and bolts of the essays and recommendations to larger questions about “college fit” and leveraging identities.

These breakout sessions will be led by seasoned admissions professionals from various institutions along the East Coast, whose careers have been distinguished by programs that champion inclusion and access.

All of this, we believe, will give our visiting students a little more confidence – and maybe a little more direction – as they begin their college-admissions search.

Going to college seems to get all the attention, but the search (and application) can’t be overlooked.

Through this program, we’re excited to offer just a little more support and advice to students, especially to those who need it most.

Stay tuned for similar programs this fall, about which we’ll be sharing soon!

Sincerely,

Thomas Ray
Assistant Dean

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Categories: Admissions

Mapping Your Future

At Wake Forest, you’ll find maps around our beautiful campus; you can be sure that we are here to guide you.

But while maps are helpful, they can also impose rigid grids on the flows of experience. With our 2020 Wake Forest Admissions Application – on-line as of June 1! – we seek to avoid such restrictions.

The acknowledgement of standardized limitations is why we don’t require test scores for admissions, why we expanded our written application, and why we added a personal-interview component to our admissions process. We want to know who you are, what you value, how you think – not just how you perform on a test, how many sports you play, how many clubs you belong to, or how many AP classes you’ve taken. We value intellectual prowess and academic achievement but also kindness and creativity. We seek students who are aware, concerned, and active.

We appreciate the discipline and reasoning behind tests and numerical results, but we also firmly believe that, while these “maps” look for truth, they can take the beauty out of it. Scores are inadequate when it comes to revealing the truth and beauty of the whole person. People, like places, are so much more marvelous.

Our application questions are thus a chance for examination of the self, a time to ponder who you’ve become and how you want the world to understand you. For all these reasons, your responses should be your own, not edited by others – uniquely you.

We want to know you as fully as we can, beyond the representation given by only numbers. So come visit, interview, and apply so that we may get to know you and you may get to know us.

We want you to map out your future and stay open to new discoveries.

Sincerely,

Martha Allman
Dean of Admissions
Wake Forest University

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Categories: Admissions

About this Blog

From The Forest is a blog maintained by members of the Undergraduate Admissions Committee at Wake Forest University. We look forward to sharing our thoughts with you.

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