I noticed something during my college visits this past fall. Given the number of people who are in a tour (upwards to 15-20 people), college tours can be unusually quite. When I stepped back to assess my tour experiences, I realized that the typical college tour is comprised of people who do not know each other and perhaps more importantly, parents and their respective children. Being surrounded by people you do not know certainly inhibits one from asking questions or talking with the tour guide. In addition to this, parents, understandably, do not want to embarrass their child by asking questions and students most likely do not want to ask questions with their parents present. Thus the typical tour experience is a large group of people quietly following a tour guide, who stops in chosen spots to briefly speak about one aspect of the college or university. When the tour guide is done with that segment, he/she continues to walk to the next chosen spot.
As a college consultant I think the tour is a critical time to ask questions of the tour guide, who is a current student. When setting out to visit a college campus prospective students need to speak with as many current students as possible and one of these students is certainly the campus tour guide.
My advice for college tours is to stay up front by the tour guide. This way you can hear everything he or she is saying, especially if there happens to be a sidebar conversation between the tour guide and another person in the tour. I stayed towards the back of a tour on purpose once so I could assess what experience I would have and I could not hear everything the tour guide was saying. This helped reinforce why I purposely stay in front on every tour. I capitalize on the opportunity to ask the tour guide questions, everything from their personal experience with their academics to their social life. To date, each tour guide answered every question that was asked of him or her.
So, come with questions and pose them to your tour guide on your next campus visit. This person is a wealth of not only institutional information, but also personal experience information. If being in a tour with strangers is why you do not ask questions in a tour, then consider being altruistic and realize that asking questions will also help others on your tour as well. You never know it may prompt others to ask questions! Or, at the end of the tour ask if you can speak with him or her privately for a couple of minutes and ask your questions. Finally, if being with your family member prevents you from finding out the information you want from your tour guide then consider taking separate tours.
Have fun and happy touring!