School Tours

How to Prepare for School Tours and Open Houses

How to Prepare for School Tours and Open Houses
July 29, 2021

We’re heading into school tour season! The fall is an exciting time full of research and exploration into new school possibilities. Now is the time to begin imagining what your child’s educational future could look like: would they prefer co-ed or single-sex? What is their approach to learning? What sorts of extracurriculars are they interested in participating in? All of these questions can begin to be answered with school tours or open houses.

But don’t forget: school tours are an opportunity to make an impression on admissions committees. Parents and students will gain a great deal from learning more about each school, but school admissions teams also gain a great deal from meeting prospective families and assessing interest and fit. It’s important to put your best foot forward during a school tour to get your admissions journey started off right. Here are our tips for maximizing school tours, for both parents (at any school level) and older students (for middle and high school):

  • Remember that every interaction is an opportunity to make an impression. Make eye contact, shake hands firmly, and smile. Both parents and students should portray themselves as polite, positive additions to a school’s community.
  • Bring a notebook and pen to take notes during the tour. Jot down things you want to remember, questions you want to ask later, and any observations of factors you like and dislike. When you attend multiple tours in a few weeks, schools can blur together; that’s why these notes will be vital as you build your final school list.
  • Leave all technology in the car or at home. It’s best not to bring your phone at all, but if you must, ensure it’s on silent and you won’t be distracted.
  • Wear business casual clothes, meaning no jeans, sneakers, or sandals. There’s no need to go fully formal with a blazer or dress, but look put together and presentable. You’ll also want to wear comfortable shoes: there may be a lot of walking on some tours.
  • Get the names and contact information for any school staff you have meaningful conversations with. You can contact these people later for thank yous or further questions.
  • Draft thank you notes to any admissions staff members and/or student tour guides you interacted with while on campus. We recommend handwritten notes sent immediately after tours to give the most positive impression.

One of the most important parts of preparing for a school tour is developing a list of questions in advance. Parents touring nursery schools or kindergartens should be prepared with questions, and older students (middle and high schoolers) who will attend school tours themselves should also develop a list. We recommend brainstorming at least 2-3 questions for each tour.

The best way to prepare is to browse schools’ websites and write down the questions that aren’t answered on the site. Above all, make sure your questions are ones that you’re genuinely interested in learning more about. That being said, here are a few general questions to get you started:

Questions for Student Tour Guides:

  • What’s your favorite school tradition or annual event?
  • What’s the best academic experience you’ve had so far?
  • How would you describe the community at this school?
  • Why did you choose to attend this school?
  • What does a typical math/English/history/etc. class look like?
  • What is your favorite extracurricular activity/club?

Questions for Admissions Officers:

  • What does a typical day look like for a [year] grader at this school?
  • How are new students introduced to the school and community?
  • What is the course selection process?
  • I am/my child is interested in extracurriculars like [sport/activity]. What is the tryout process like?
  • How do students and/or parents get in touch with teachers?

Prepare your questions in advance, dress for success, and arrive at your school tour or open house ready to make a positive first impression. With any luck, you’ll fall in love with a school that is the perfect match for your child!

This year, many school tours and open houses might still be virtual due to COVID-19. Some of these tips still apply, namely preparing great questions!