04/28/2012 01:16 pm ET

College Tours: 9 Questions You Should Always Ask When You Visit A Campus

By Jessenia Martinez

Jessenia is a senior at Benito Juarez High School. She’s a reporter for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

Everyone asks basic questions when they start their college search, such as does the school have a big or small campus, what tuition costs and what are the average SAT or ACT scores of accepted students. But you might not know what else to ask that could be crucial to helping you choose the right school.

We consulted with college counselors Evelyn Sanchez, Araceli Diaz and Jesse Palencia from Benito Juarez to help you ask the right questions. If you’re lucky enough to go on some college visits before making your choice, here are some things to consider to get more insider info that will help you pick your future school.

What are the residence halls and dorms like? How expensive is it to live in a dorm compared to commuting to campus?
If you’re going to be living on campus, you should know how expensive it is to live there —and if not, what your costs will be as a commuter, if that’s an option. Be sure to take into account any hidden costs such as parking permits if you plan to commute.

What kind of academic or career services are available?
It’s always good to know that your campus has a tutoring center to go to if you’re having trouble in class. Ask about typical instructor office hours as well to get a feel for how available professors will be to help you outside of class, and whether or not they use teaching assistants who can be available to help too. Ask about career services or alumni networking programs that can help you with job placement and making the transition from student to young professional.

How much are the meal plans?
If you’re going to be living on campus or spending nearly full days to attend class, you’re going to have to eat. Depending on your appetite, you may want to find out in advance what kind of meal plan you can live with that won’t break the bank.

Does the campus have wifi in every building?
Having a laptop can come in handy in college, but it’s a good idea to ask where on campus you can get a wifi signal. Being able to do Internet research, check your email, check in with instructors online and keep track of your grades from anywhere on campus is a valuable option for students constantly on-the-go.

Ask students: Why did you choose to go to this college?
Since you’ll do some campus tours, it’s always great to ask your tour guide why they chose a certain campus. Getting inside information can help you narrow down your choices. If you’re lucky, you might even get some quirky stories from your tour guide about how they ended up at the school.

How much is tuition for a part- or full-time undergraduate student?
You should always ask how much a part-time or full-time undergraduate student’s tuition will be because it can also help narrow your choices. Plus, the experts can explain if being a part-time or full-time student is best for you.

What are some extra fees do I have to pay besides tuition?
College guides may not include certain “hidden fees” such as ones that cover orientation, registration, athletics, book and so much more. If you really want to sum up how much college will cost you even before you attend your first class, ask about fees when you visit the college so there are no surprises in the fall.

Will my Advanced Placement scores be accepted?
Many teens sign up and take AP classes and pass the exams with 3’s. Depending on what classes they are, some colleges might not accept those credits you earned for taking the AP exams. Ask during your visit so you can get an idea of what kind of AP scores you’ll need in order to get college credit for all your hard work in high school.

What are my study abroad options?
Traveling’s always fun to think about. Certain colleges have amazing study abroad options such as going to Mexico or Japan for a semester or the summer. Ask where you can study abroad as well as which universities or colleges do exchange programs with the college you’re visiting that might give you a chance to explore a new country.